UK child sex probe against ex-PM Heath spreads to two more regions

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 04, 2015 12:45 PM

LONDON (Reuters) - Police forces in two further British regions said on Tuesday they were examining allegations of historical child sexual abuse against the late former prime minister Edward Heath.

The revelations by police in Jersey and in Kent came a day after detectives in Wiltshire, southwest England, appealed for witnesses or victims who might be able to support allegations of child sexual abuse against Heath, who died in 2005 at age 89.

Wiltshire police said on Tuesday they had received "a number of calls" as a result of that appeal but declined to elaborate.

Heath, a keen yachtsman and musician, was prime minister between 1970 and 1974 and leader of the Conservative Party for 10 years. He was replaced in 1975 by Margaret Thatcher, with whom he had a highly fraught relationship.

Heath was unmarried and had no family. The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, which runs a museum at his former home in Salisbury, Wiltshire, told the BBC it welcomed the inquiry and "wholeheartedly believe (it) will clear (his) name.

"We will cooperate fully with the police in their inquiries," a foundation spokesman said.

Heath is the latest high-profile British political figure to have been linked to child sexual abuse allegations that have been growing in scope since 2012, when the late BBC TV presenter Jimmy Savile was shown to have abused hundreds of victims for decades, using the cover of his celebrity.

SAILING

In May, police investigating the various allegations across the country said more than 1,400 people had been named as suspects including 261 described as "people of public prominence", among them dozens of politicians and TV stars.

On Monday, Britain's police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), said it was to investigate allegations that detectives in Wiltshire - where Heath lived for much of his life - failed to pursue a criminal prosecution when a person threatened to raise accusations that Heath may have been involved in offences concerning children.

It did not elaborate.

The IPCC said it would also examine whether Wiltshire Police subsequently took any steps to investigate those claims.

On Tuesday, police on Jersey in the Channel Islands, where Heath used to go sailing, said they had been investigating claims against him. "Sir Edward Heath does feature as part of Operation Whistle, currently investigating historical allegations of abuse in Jersey," they said in a statement.

Shortly afterwards, Kent police in eastern England said they too were examining an allegation. "Kent Police (have) today received a report of a sexual assault having been committed in East Kent in the 1960s," they said in a statement. "The victim has named Sir Edward Heath in connection with the allegation."

Detectives were making initial enquiries to obtain a full account from the victim.

The BBC said London's Metropolitan Police had also been investigating child abuse allegations against Heath as part of inquiries but a spokesman for the force declined to comment.

(Reporting by Stephen Addison; Editing by Tom Heneghan)