Police force facing corruption probe over its handling of Ted Heath child abuse claims is put in charge of all investigations into the former PM
- Seven forces are now investigating sex abuse claims against former PM
- Wiltshire Police face corruption probe over handling of child abuse claims
- Now revealed they will lead inquiry into allegations against late politician
- Force is being investigated over claims that a prosecution was shelved after a threat was made to expose the former politician in the 1980s
The police force facing a corruption probe over its handling of child sex abuse claims involving former Prime Minister Edward Heath has been appointed to oversee investigations into allegations against him.
Wiltshire Police will lead an investigation involving at least seven forces carrying out inquiries linked to abuse claims against the late politician.
But just last week Wiltshire Police was at the centre of the revelations which led to Sir Edward becoming the highest profile figure to be embroiled in historic paedophile allegations.
Wiltshire Police force will lead an investigation involving at least seven forces carrying out inquiries linked to child sex abuse claims against late Prime Minister Edward Heath (pictured)
The force is being investigated over claims that a prosecution was shelved after a threat was made to expose the former politician.
Officers in the county, which is led by chief constable Mike Veale, will work with colleagues around Britain to establish a ‘national investigative strategy’.
A single senior investigating officer – likely to be from Wiltshire – will also be appointed, it is understood.
The force said it will lead on the ‘national oversight and coordination of any investigations into Sir Edward Heath’.
Operation Hydrant, a national hub coordinating inquiries into historical abuse, has been liaising with forces which received information concerning Sir Edward.
A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: ‘This decision has been taken following consultation between Operation Hydrant and affected forces and is based on operational considerations.
Officers in the force, which is led by chief constable Mike Veale (pictured) will work with police around the UK to establish a ‘national investigative strategy’
‘The appointment of a lead force is to ensure that a consistent approach is adopted across the police forces concerned and to avoid duplication.
‘Wiltshire Police will now be working with the respective forces to establish an appropriate national investigative strategy and supporting structure.
‘Due to the complexities of this task it is anticipated that this will take a number of weeks to finalise. One of the first tasks will be to assess the new information that has been received following the appeals for information made last week.’
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is also looking into whether Wiltshire Police subsequently followed up the claim against Sir Edward, which was allegedly made in the 1990s.
Asked if it was appropriate for the force to have the role at the same time as the watchdog’s inquiry, a spokeswoman said: ‘The IPCC investigation into matters that occurred in the 1990s is entirely independent of Wiltshire Police.
‘Allegations of previous failures in the 1990s are being independently investigated by the IPCC.
‘We are confident that we now investigate abuse to a very high standard and are committed to investigating these allegations fully without fear or favour.
MP John Mann backed the decision. He said: ‘I’m happy with it – having one police force running the investigation is what is needed.’
His view was echoed by Labour colleague Simon Danczuk.
He said: ‘I think there is a view that the Metropolitan Police should lead on it but I am not sure why that is the case.’
MP Tom Watson said the news was welcome but questioned why it has ‘taken so long’.
He said: ‘The ad hoc approach to these complex cases means it is more likely that intelligence is not properly acted upon and undermines public confidence in continuing enquiries.’
After the IPCC investigation was announced, Wiltshire Police immediately appealed for potential victims and others with information to come forward.
In the days that followed, it emerged that detectives in Kent, Jersey, Hampshire, London, Gloucestershire and Thames Valley are also carrying out inquiries linked to allegations against Sir Edward.
The police forces investigating the allegations include Wiltshire, Hampshire, Kent, Jersey and the Met Police
Former brothel keeper Myra Ling-Ling Forde, 67, was named in reports as the person who had escaped prosecution after saying they would ‘expose’ Sir Edward.
However, in a statement Forde’s former lawyer said she wanted to make clear that she had no involvement with the former PM, did not threaten to expose him as a client and had ‘no knowledge of any misconduct on his part’.
The mystery deepened when the prosecuting barrister at the time said claims against Sir Edward played no part in the decision to drop the case in question in the early 1990s.
It did not proceed because of a lack of evidence, Judge Nigel Seed QC said.
Former friends and colleagues of Sir Edward rallied to defend his reputation.
The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation said: ‘We welcome the investigation by Wiltshire Police, which we wholeheartedly believe will clear Sir Edward’s name and we will co-operate fully with the police in their inquiries.’
Sir Edward, who led the Conservative government between 1970 and 1974, died at home in Salisbury aged 89 in July 2005.
1990s: A retired ‘very senior’ officer raises concerns that a criminal trial was derailed in the 1990s to protect the former Tory leader Sir Edward Heath.
A woman who was in charge of a brothel had been due to stand trial but said she would expose the MP and a child abuser.
It is claimed that top brass then intervened to make her case ‘disappear’ and it is believed that Ted Heath was not even visited, questioned or arrested. His Salisbury home was not searched.
A ‘respected’ retired senior Wiltshire Police officer, who worked with the whistleblower, said he was sure the allegations made by his former colleague were true.
The officer, who was at the heart of some of the force’s most sensitive inquiries in the 1990s, told the Daily Mail: ‘I have no doubt that the allegation that a prosecution was stopped in suspicious circumstances, because of a potential link to Sir Edward, is true.’
July 2005: SIr Edward Heath dies at his home in Salisbury of pneumonia. He was cremated on July 25 at a funeral service attended by 1,500 people.
2012: Labour MP Tom Watson, who helped expose claims of an Establishment cover-up to protect VIP paedophiles, says he was approached with allegations about Sir Edward.
He claims to have handed them to police, but it is unclear what officers did with that information.
He said: ‘I received information in 2012 concerning allegations of child abuse carried out by Edward Heath and a separate claim concerning Heath was made to me subsequently. I passed them both to the police, who have confirmed to me that at least one of those allegations is being investigated and taken seriously.’
Operation Fairbank was launched in 2012 to look into claims that there was a paedophile ring with links to government in response to information passed on by Mr Watson.
Fairbank has since spawned more inquiries, including Operation Midland, which is investigating claims of a VIP paedophile ring in Westminster in the 1970s and 80s involved in the murder of three boys; Fernbridge, which is looking at claims linked to the Elm Guest House in Barnes, south west London, in the 1980s; and Cayacos, which is investigating historic cases linked to the Paedophile Information Exchange.
October 2014: Scotland Yard sources say that this is when detectives may have received a complaint about Sir Edward Heath linking to the VIP paedophile ring formed in Westminster.
A year earlier the Met started seriously probing claims that VIPs – including former ministers, police and people linked to royal household – abused children at Elm Guest House in south-west London in the 1980s and in Dolphin House from the 1970s.
It was sparked after Sir Cyril Smith was named as a paedophile in Parliament and it emerged four chances to prosecute him before his death were missed. Also 114 files relating to historical allegations of child sex abuse, 1979 to 1999, disappeared from the Home Office, increasing suspicion of a cover up.
June 2015: Jersey Police launch Operation Whistle to investigate child abuse claims on the island and say they believe it involved 13 celebrities, politicians and sports stars.
Detectives revealed that the prominent figures who are alive, who are still ‘well known’, will be quizzed ‘imminently’ into allegations of institutionalised sex offences on the Channel island.
Their identities have not been revealed but police have said that 13 of the 45 suspects are public figures, including media personalities, politicians and sports people and they will be questioned as part of Operation Whistle.
It now appears that Sir Ted Heath is among the suspects. A dossier is said to suggest he would take vulnerable boys out on his yacht.
August 3, 2015: The Independent Police Complaints Commission announces that child sex allegations involving Sir Edward Heath are at the centre of a police corruption investigation.
Watchdogs named the late Prime Minister as they announced Wiltshire Police is being probed over its response to an alleged abuse claim made in the 1990s. The force appealed for potential victims to come forward.
Sir Edward, who was PM for four years in the 1970s, is the highest-profile figure to be embroiled in historic abuse allegations against prominent figures.
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