One of Sir Edward Heath’s closest advisers has said allegations against the former prime minister are “so totally uncharacteristic and unlikely” that he does not believe them to be true.
Lord Armstrong of Ilminster said he “never felt a whiff of sexuality about Ted Heath, whether it was in relation to women, men or children,” and he repeated his claim that Heath was “completely asexual”.
Heath, who died in 2005 aged 89, is being investigated by seven police forces over child sexual abuse claims. These are North Yorkshire, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Kent, Jersey, Gloucestershire and Thames Valley.
Last week the Independent Police Complaints Commission disclosed that it was investigating claims by a retired senior officer that a prosecution against a suspect in the 1990s was dropped because threats were made to expose Heath as an alleged child abuser.
Armstrong was Heath’s principal private secretary during Heath’s time as prime minister from 1970 to 1974.
He told the Today programme: “My incredulity is based on the way of life of a man and about his character and his personality. When he was at home he had two policemen on the gate, he had the personal protection officer from Scotland Yard in the house, he never drove a car himself, he always had an official driver.
“It just seems to me highly unlikely that he could have escaped all that to do the kind of thing that is described.”
Armstrong said he knew Heath for 35 years, worked very closely with him while he was prime minister and remained friends with him for the rest of his life. “You usually detect some sense of sexuality when you are friends or work closely with them. I think he was completely asexual. There are some people like that and I think he was one of them,” he said.
This week Armstrong sent a letter to the Times claiming that Heath’s reputation was being “unfairly tarnished” by the allegations. In the letter, Armstrong said that if Heath had been a paedophile he would have been “too conscious of the implications for his reputation and career to take risks of that kind”.
This is not the first time Armstrong has been caught in the furore around sexual abuse allegations against an establishment figure. As cabinet secretary in 1986, he was warned by the security services that an MP had “a penchant for small boys” but no action was taken. He refused to name the MP involved and told reporters in July that the allegations were just “shadows of a rumour”.
Heath died at his home in Salisbury, Wiltshire. The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation said it was confident the former prime minister would be cleared of any wrongdoing.
This article was written by Nadia Khomami, for theguardian.com on Friday 14th August 2015 08.33 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010