Police watchdog to investigate Wiltshire force after claims it failed to act on allegations of child sex abuse made about former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath
- Wiltshire Police accused of ignoring sex abuse claim in the 1990s
- Man may have been let off prosecution after threat to expose Sir Edward
- Sir Edward Heath served as Tory prime minister between 1970 and 1974
Allegations: The police watchdog is investigating whether claims Sir Edward Heath, pictured just before his death in 2005, abused children were ever investigated
Britain's police watchdog said today it will investigate whether allegations of child abuse levelled at Sir Edward Heath were ignored.
A senior detective has claimed that Wiltshire Police was told in the 1990s that the former Conservative prime minister may have been a paedophile.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission today said it is to investigate whether officers chose to ignore the claims about Sir Edward, who lived in Salisbury until he died in 2005 aged 89.
The IPCC will also probe claims that an alleged paedophile should have been prosecuted but had the case against him dropped when he threatened to expose Sir Edward.
Speaking outside Sir Edward’s former home in the shadow of Salisbury Cathedral, Superintendent Sean Memory of Wiltshire Police said today: 'The allegation is that a trial was due to take place in the 1990s and information was received in that trial that Sir Ted Heath was involved in the abuse of children and the allegation is from the result of that information that the trial never took place.
'A retired senior police officer has come forward towards the end of 2014 indicating that they were aware of this information.
'So between then and March this year we have worked tirelessly to establish the facts of that allegation to a point where in March this year we have made a mandatory referral to the Independent Police Complaints commission who are leading the investigation into whether we did in fact mishandle that case in the 1990s.'
He appealed for victims who have been the victim of 'any crime from Sir Ted Heath or any historical sexual offence,' to come forward.
Earlier today a spokesman for the IPCC said: 'It is alleged that a criminal prosecution was not pursued, when a person threatened to expose that Sir Edward Heath may have been involved in offences concerning children.
'In addition to this allegation, the IPCC will examine whether Wiltshire Police subsequently took any steps to investigate these claims'.
The allegations made by the retired senior police officer is the first time the former prime minister has been linked to child abuse.
Scotland Yard is currently investigating whether a VIP paedophile ring involving politicians, civil servants and diplomats abused children on an industrial scale in the 1970s and 1980s.
Victims say they were abused during sex parties at the exclusive Dolphin Square development close to Westminster, where it is also alleged that several children were murdered.
Leader: Grammar school boy Ted Heath, left in 1973 and right in 1974, rose to become prime minister between 1970 and 1974 and was later replaced as Tory leader by Margaret Thatcher
Scandal: Wiltshire Police have urged witnesses to come forward if they were abused or have evidence that others were
There is no evidence that claims about Sir Edward are linked to this investigation.
A spokesperson for Wiltshire Police said: 'Following the announcement today regarding an independent investigation by the IPCC into allegations concerning how Wiltshire Police handled an alleged claim of child sex abuse made in the 1990's, we are carrying out enquiries to identify if there are any witnesses or victims who support the allegations of child sex abuse.
WHAT IS THE POLICE WATCHDOG LOOKING AT?
The Independent Police Complaints Commission will consider whether Wiltshire Police failed to properly investigate two child sex abuse cases.
A retired senior officer claims that an alleged paedophile should have been prosecuted in the 1990s.
He claims that when the suspect alleged that Sir Edward Heath was involved in child sex offences, and he planned to expose him, officers then dropped the case against him.
The IPCC will also investigate whether the claims about Sir Edward were ever looked at by the Wiltshire force.
However, it will not examine whether the claims aimed at Sir Edward were credible.
'Sir Edward Heath as part of the allegations they are investigating and that he may have been involved in offences concerning children.
'He lived in Salisbury for many years and we would like to hear from anyone who has any relevant information that may assist us in our enquiries or anyone who believes they may have been a victim.
'If there is evidence of offences having been committed we will ensure that , if possible, those responsible are held to account through a thorough and detailed investigation. This includes any other parties who are identified as having been involved in child sex abuse.
'Some people may never have spoken out about the abuse they have suffered but we would urge them to please contact us and to not suffer in silence'.
Sir Edward, who was prime minister for four turbulent years in the 1970s, never married and was famously reticent about his private life.
One biographer concluded that he may have been a latent or repressed homosexual while another thought he was 'pretty well sexless'.
Away from politics he was noted for his enthusiasm for sailing and classical music.
Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said: 'Wiltshire Police referred the allegations to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and advised my office of the referral.
Sir Edward, who lived in Salisbury until he died in 2005 aged 89. A police officer stood guard outside the home where he lived until his death today (above)
A plaque honouring the late politician is found outside his home in Salisbury (above). It is the first time Sir Edward has been linked to allegations of child abuse
'The progress of this investigation has been monitored by my office at every stage and I am satisfied that the necessary momentum and engagement with the IPCC has been maintained by Wiltshire Police since the information was received.
'It is important that the IPCC investigation is given full co-operation. I will be watching closely to see if any evidence of corruption or poor practice is uncovered.
'I would like to encourage any victims, or anyone with information which could help the investigation, to have the confidence and courage to come forward.
'We have often seen from high profile national cases that victims, who have not spoken of their abuse for many years, find their voice and speak out. I want any victims of child sex abuse, whether current or historic, to know they can have confidence in the service they will receive from Wiltshire Police'.
Rivals: Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher, pictured together in 1970, had battled for the leadership of the Tory party, which Heath eventually lost in 1975 - leading to a lifelong feud with the Iron Lady
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: 'It's important that people who believe they have been victims of abuse have the confidence to speak out knowing that their voices will be listened to.
'Whether abuse happened in the past, or is occurring today, whether those being accused are authority figures or not, allegations of crimes against children must be investigated thoroughly.
'While some people wait years before speaking out we would urge them to act quickly so they can get help as soon as possible. Our trained helpline counsellors are always on duty round the clock to listen and provide assistance.'