Former British PM Heath would have been questioned over child sex abuse claims, police say

Police report into claims that Sir Edward Heath sexually abused children says former PM would have been interviewed under criminal caution had he still been alive

According to a report, Sir Edward Heath 'allegedly raped and indecently assaulted a male, aged 11 years' (Photo: EU Reporter)
According to a report, Sir Edward Heath 'allegedly raped and indecently assaulted a male, aged 11 years' (Photo: EU Reporter)

A police report into claims that Sir Edward Heath, former British PM, sexually abused children claimed seven allegations of rape and sexual assault.

This would have merited interview under criminal caution, had he still been alive. The alleged rape is claimed to have occurred in 1961, with the alleged victim being 11 years old.

Heath was then MP for Bexley and the lord privy seal. The report says the alleged incident happened within the London area covered by the Metropolitan police.

“Sir Edward Heath allegedly raped and indecently assaulted a male, aged 11 years, during a paid sexual encounter in private in a dwelling”, said the report.

One offence of sexual abuse is alleged to have happened in 1967, while Heath was leader of the Conservative party and another when he was trade minister in 1964. None were reported to have happened while he was prime minister between 1970 and 1974, however two alleged offences occurred after that.

 “Further to a proportionate investigation reasonable grounds exist that, if Sir Edward Heath had been alive today, he would have been interviewed under caution regarding his suspected involvement in an offence”, says the report.

If he were still alive and interviewed under caution “it is emphasised that his account would be as important as other evidence gathered as part of the wider investigation.

“Accordingly it is critical to stress that no inference of guilty should be drawn from the fact that Heath would have been interviewed under caution.”

Heath became leader of the Conservative party in 1965. In 1970, he defied opinion polls to win a surprise general election victory and become prime minister. His four years in office were dogged by industrial strife, with his biggest achievement being Britain’s entry into the European economic community. 

After defeat at the polls in 1974, he lost the leadership to Margaret thatcher. He never married and his private life was the subject of speculation.

The offences were allegedly committed against four boys aged between 10 and 15, as well as two men. In one case, police say there was some undermining evidence but the politician should have been questioned regardless.

Inquiries into the claims were led by the Wiltshire police on behalf of 14 forces, who received claims from Heath alleging that the former prime minister had carried out acts of sexual abuse.

Heath was also alleged by complainants to police to have carried out crimes in 1962 in Kent against a boy aged 10, in a public place following a chance encounter. One offence in 1964 against a boy aged 15 is alleged to have happened while Heath was secretary of state for trade and industry.

Two offences, in 1976 and 1992, occurred after Heath had served as the seventh post-war prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The investigation into Heath over claims of child sexual abuse started in August 2015. It was led by the Wiltshire force as his Salisbury home was in the area they cover. The investigation was codenamed Operation Conifer. The allegations it received came from various places in the country and dated back decades.

According to Wiltshire police, they received a total of 42 allegations regarding 40 different individuals. The claims made covered 14 separate police force sections in the UK and the Channel Islands and covered the period between 1956 and 1992. All were alleged to have happened whilst Heath was an MP and were related to physical, as well as sexual abuse.

Wiltshire police chief constable Mike Veale described the Heath inquiry as a “watershed” moment.

“This watershed moment regarding investigations of people connected to the establishment should not be underestimated.”

In a statement, supporters of Heath criticised the police report. Lord Hunt of Wirral, chair of the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, and Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, former cabinet secretary and PPS to Heath while he was prime minister, said: “The Wiltshire police report is profoundly unsatisfactory because it neither justifies nor dispels the cloud of suspicion.

“It contains a summary of the investigation, but draws no conclusion as to Sir Edward’s guilt although during the investigation the chief constable was heard to express, as he certainly should not have done, his personal view that Sir Edward Heath was probably guilty.

“As Sir Edward is dead, justice requires that there should be a quasi-judicial process as a substitute for the judicial process. This could be in the form of an independent review by a retired judge, with unrestricted access to all the evidence collected by the Wiltshire police. In the meantime, a fundamental, time-honoured principle should be respected, namely that a man is innocent until he is proven guilty.”

Heath’s godson Lincoln Seligman said he had know him for half a century. “I don’t believe any of the allegations,” he said. “I knew him as a child. Early on he was just a friend of my parents and I treated him as that. He had just become an MP. He was one of the people who was around in our lives. He used to come on holiday with our family and I and my siblings had every opportunity to observe him at close hand.

“When I grew up I formed a closer relationship with him I knew him to be a man of great integrity and not so idiotic to jeopardise his career by indulging in anything so pointless and dangerous.”

He said that following the police appeal for victims to come forward he was surprised 10,000 people had not come forward.

The investigation received intense and sustained criticism while it was being carried out. In December 2016, Veale was stung into a vehement denunciation of the criticism.

Veale denied the investigation into Heath was a “fishing expedition” or “witch hunt” and vowed not to bow to “unacceptable” media pressure.

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