Police recruit more investigators for Edward Heath inquiry

Edward Heath

Detectives investigating allegations of sexual abuse against the late former prime minister Sir Edward Heath are recruiting additional investigators in a sign that the criticised inquiry remains active.

Wiltshire police, which is supervising all investigations launched across the country into sexual abuse allegations against Heath, last month advertised for a number of staff investigators to assist the inquiry for at least 12 months, possibly up to two years.

The recruitment drive was reportedly launched to support plans to examine the Heath archive at the Bodleian Libraries, which is made up of about 4,500 boxes of material.

Detectives are understood to believe they might be able to corroborate witness accounts and Heath’s movements by examining his private papers in the Bodleian’s warehouse near Swindon, the Times reported.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) disclosed in August it was investigating claims by a retired Wiltshire police officer that a prosecution against a suspect in the 1990s was dropped because threats were made to expose Heath as an alleged child abuser.

Wiltshire police followed up the announcement by launching a fresh appeal for victims and witnesses of Heath’s alleged abuse to come forward. DS Sean Memory stood outside Heath’s former Salisbury home when making a statement to the TV cameras.

The IPCC inquiry is examining claims that witnesses to a court case were persuaded to withdraw their planned testimony against a brothel keeper, Myra Forde, who now lives in London, in order to stop the exposure of Heath.

DS Sean Memory’s August appeal for information regarding the claims about Ted Heath

In the job advert for staff investigators, Wiltshire police said there are now a number of forces across the UK who have received information from the public.

Successful candidates will be assisting Memory and will need to be a “proven investigator with a demonstrable record in the serious crime arena”, the advert said.

Friends of Heath, who died aged 89 in 2005, have been angered by the damage the inquiries have done to his reputation. Lord Armstrong of Ilminster said Heath was “almost completely, if not completely asexual”.

Armstrong, one of his closest advisers, said he “never detected a whiff of sexuality in relation to men, women or children” in 35 years of knowing Heath, who led the country from 1970-74.

The clear signal that detectives are pressing on with the inquiry will raise eyebrows given the recent controversy surrounding Operation Midland, the Met inquiry based on the evidence of one individual which is yet to uncover evidence to support criminal charges against any suspects.

The Met commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, has faced strident calls to apologise to Lord Bramall, 92, a D-day veteran who rose to become a military chief, after he was investigated for abuse under Operation Midland but was ultimately told he faces no further action.

The Met has apologised for aspects of its handling of an investigation into the former Tory minister Leon Brittan over an allegation of rape dating back to 1967. Lord Brittan was also investigated as part of Operation Midland.

A spokeswoman for Bodleian Libraries said: “The Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford hold the papers of former Conservative prime minister, Sir Edward Heath.

“The libraries acquired the Heath archive in 2011 with the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. It comprises 4,500 boxes and includes political papers from his time in office, in the shadow cabinet, as well as personal papers and general correspondence.

“Library archives will always be made available for police investigations on request.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jamie Grierson, for theguardian.com on Friday 19th February 2016 12.41 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010