UK

Sir Edward Heath Child Sex Abuse Claims Were 'Sufficiently Credible To Justify Questioning'

The allegations include the rape of an 11-year-old boy.

05/10/2017 11:08 BST | Updated 05/10/2017 15:45 BST

Former prime minister Sir Edward Heath would have had to answer allegations he raped and indecently assaulted an 11-year-old boy if he were still alive, a controversial police inquiry has concluded.

Wiltshire Police, which has been investigating the claims for two years, said seven of the 40 allegations were credible enough to justify questioning him under caution.

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Sir Edward Heath in Downing Street in 1972, when he was prime minister

It published its “summary closure report” into Heath, who was better known as Ted and was prime minister from 1970 to 1974.

The probe, called Operation Conifer, was launched in 2015 after Heath, who died in 2005, was named as a suspect in an investigation into historical child sex abuse.

It looked into 42 allegations from 40 people. The offending was alleged to have taken place between 1956 and 1992. 

The seven allegations he would have faced questioning over were:

Wiltshire Police
The police table recording disclosures where Sir Edward Heath would have been interviewed under caution to gain an account

“No inference of guilt should be drawn by the decision to interview under caution. The account from Sir Edward Heath would have been as important as other evidence gathered as part of the wider investigation,” Wiltshire Police said.

The police investigation has been accused of proceeding on the basis of little evidence.

Before Thursday’s report was published, Heath’s godson Lincoln Seligman called for an review into the police investigation.

He said: “My suspicion is that we will learn nothing from the report except innuendo and that really takes nobody any further forward, except it leaves a dark stain over a man who can’t defend himself.

“What we are looking for is a judge-led review of a) how the police have conducted Operation Conifer and b) all the evidence it has produced.

“We want a judge to look at that who will be independent and impartial and to me that is the opposite of cover-up, because we want the truth and we believe the truth will exonerate him.”

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Jimmy Savile (left) with Heath (right) in February 1980, during a rehearsal for a Jim'll Fix It episode at the BBC Shepherd's Bush Theatre
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Heath at the 1984 Tory Party Conference

The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation called Wiltshire Police’s report “profoundly unsatisfactory because it neither justifies nor dispels the cloud of suspicion”.

At a press conference, Wiltshire Police chief constable Mike Veale defended the investigation and said a judge-led inquiry was “ill-conceived”. 

He said: “I believe this would neither provide value for money, or indeed a legitimate outcome of the guilt or innocence of Sir Edward Heath.”

In 19 of the allegations, police found “undermining information” that contradicted them.

In three cases, the accusers subsequently said they were wrong to identify Heath as the perpetrator.

In ten cases, the alleged abuse was reported by a third party and in another three, the allegations were made anonymously. Police made no findings on these allegations.