Edward Heath: Jersey become latest police force to investigate former PM

Edward Heath

The scale of the police inquiries into Sir Edward Heath became apparent on Tuesday as Jersey became the latest force to reveal it was investigating the late former prime minister over child abuse claims.

Heath features as part of Operation Whistle, a Jersey police inquiry into historical allegations of child abuse on the island set up following a surge of claims made in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal and the Jersey Care Inquiry.

“Sir Edward Heath does feature as part of Operation Whistle, currently investigating historical allegations of abuse in Jersey,” a statement from the States of Jersey police said.

The number of forces investigating allegations against the former Conservative leader now comes to three after Wiltshire police issued an appeal on Monday for anyone who claimed to have been a victim of Heath’s abuse to come forward.

Scotland Yard have also been investigating claims against Heath as part of Operation Midland, which was set up to examine claims of murder by a Westminster paedophile ring that systematically abused children, the BBC reported.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating claims made by a retired senior officer that Wiltshire police dropped a prosecution in the 1990s after a suspect threatened to name Heath in connection with allegations of child abuse. The suspect was reported to be a woman in charge of a brothel, whose prosecution was said to have been abandoned after she threatened to expose Heath.

Wiltshire police said they had received a number of calls after issuing the appeal. Speaking outside Heath’s former home, Supt Sean Memory said a retired senior police officer came forward at the end of last year with claims that a prosecution was halted when a person threatened to expose Heath as a paedophile.

The former officer making the allegations of coverup was a constable at the time, and rose through the ranks, reaching the rank of inspector or above. The IPCC said it would investigate the coverup claims and what Wiltshire police did to investigate the allegations about Heath.

After Monday’s revelations, the Mirror reported a claim by an unnamed man that he was raped at age 12 by Heath, who died aged 89 in 2005.

It emerged on Monday that officers from the Metropolitan police spoke to a man who came forward more than two years ago and claimed that as a teenager he was a victim of Heath’s abuse.

The inquiries by the Met were not announced publicly, but the Labour MP Tom Watson said: “I received information in 2012 concerning allegations of child abuse carried out by Edward Heath,” adding that the claims were passed to police and were “being investigated and taken seriously”.

It is understood the claims are being investigated under Operation Midland, which falls under a wider umbrella of investigations – known as Operation Fairbank – into allegations of abuse involving senior politicians and high-profile figures.

Scotland Yard said it “does not provide a running commentary on Operation Midland”.

Police appeal for information on Monday

The allegations against Heath, who was unmarried and subject to lurid speculation about his private life, come amid a flurry of claims of establishment figures sexually abusing children, with their crimes being covered up. The government has set up the Goddard inquiry to investigate the scale of child sexual abuse and of establishment coverup.

Brian Binley, who was MP for Northampton South from 2005 to 2015 and worked in Heath’s office earlier in his career, said he would be “very, very surprised” if there was substance to the allegations, adding that he believed Heath was a “good guy”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Binley questioned why the retired Wiltshire police officer had not come forward sooner. “We must remember that Ted Heath was never even questioned about these allegations and it might be that the police at the time felt that the allegations were so unreliable as to dismiss them – as they do, of course, with many allegations made,” he said.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jamie Grierson and Vikram Dodd, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 4th August 2015 15.57 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010