Wiltshire Police to oversee Sir Edward Heath child sex claims probe
The police force facing a corruption probe over its handling of child sex claims involving Sir Edward Heath has been appointed to oversee investigations into allegations against the former Prime Minister.
Wiltshire Police will lead at least seven forces carrying out inquiries linked to abuse claims against the late politician.
Officers in the county will work with colleagues around Britain to establish a "national investigative strategy".
A single senior investigating officer - likely to be from Wiltshire - will also be appointed, it is understood.
The force said it will lead on the "national oversight and coordination of any investigations into Sir Edward Heath", adding: " The appointment of a lead force is to ensure that a consistent approach is adopted across the police forces concerned and to avoid duplication."
Wiltshire Police was at the centre of the revelations that last week led to Sir Edward becoming the highest profile figure to be embroiled in historic paedophile allegations.
It is being investigated over claims that a prosecution was shelved after a threat was made to expose the former politician.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is also looking into whether Wiltshire Police subsequently followed up the claim against Sir Edward, which was allegedly made in the 1990s.
Asked if it was appropriate for the force to have the role at the same time as the watchdog's inquiry, a spokeswoman said: "The IPCC investigation into matters that occurred in the 1990s is entirely independent of Wiltshire Police.
"Allegations of previous failures in the 1990s are being independently investigated by the IPCC. We are confident that we now investigate abuse to a very high standard and are committed to investigating these allegations fully without fear or favour.
MP John Mann backed the decision.
He said: "I'm happy with it - having one police force running the investigation is what is needed."
His view was echoed by Labour colleague Simon Danczuk. He said: "I think there is a view that the Metropolitan Police should lead on it but I am not sure why that is the case."
MP Tom Watson said the news was welcome but questioned why it has "taken so long".
He said: "The ad hoc approach to these complex cases means it is more likely that intelligence is not properly acted upon and undermines public confidence in continuing enquiries."
After the IPCC investigation was announced, Wiltshire Police immediately appealed for potential victims and others with information to come forward.
In the days that followed, it emerged that detectives in Kent, Jersey, Hampshire, London, Gloucestershire and Thames Valley are also carrying out inquiries linked to allegations against Sir Edward.
Former brothel keeper Myra Ling-Ling Forde, 67, was named in reports as the person who had escaped prosecution after saying they would "expose" Sir Edward.
However, in a statement Forde's former lawyer said she wanted to make clear that she had no involvement with the former PM, did not threaten to expose him as a client and had "no knowledge of any misconduct on his part".
The mystery deepened when the prosecuting barrister at the time said claims against Sir Edward played no part in the decision to drop the case in question in the early 1990s.
It did not proceed because of a lack of evidence, Judge Nigel Seed QC said.
Former friends and colleagues of Sir Edward rallied to defend his reputation.
The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation said: "We welcome the investigation by Wiltshire Police, which we wholeheartedly believe will clear Sir Edward's name and we will co-operate fully with the police in their inquiries."
Sir Edward, who led the Conservative government between 1970 and 1974, died at home in Salisbury aged 89 in July 2005.