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Ex-PM Heath would have faced police quiz on seven child sex allegations – report

Friends of Sir Edward branded the report “profoundly unsatisfactory” and said a “cloud of suspicion” hangs over him.

Former Conservative prime minister Sir Edward Heath would be questioned over allegations that he raped and indecently assaulted boys as young as 10 were he alive today, a controversial police report has said.

A Wiltshire Police investigation, called Operation Conifer, concluded that seven of the claims would have been sufficiently credible to justify questioning Sir Edward, who was prime minister between 1970 and 1974, under caution.

The report does not address the question of Sir Edward’s guilt or innocence because the remit of the two-year £1.5 million inquiry was to see whether there was enough evidence to interview the former MP for Bexley, who died at home in Salisbury in July 2005, aged 89.

Friends of Sir Edward branded the report “profoundly unsatisfactory” and said a “cloud of suspicion” hangs over him.

While Lord Macdonald QC, a former director of public prosecutions, accused police of “covering their backs” at the expense of a man who can no longer defend himself.

The 100-page “summary closure report” details 42 allegations made against Sir Edward and categorises them as:

:: Seven alleged victims whose accounts would warrant interviewing him under caution;

:: Nineteen cases where Sir Edward would not have been interviewed under caution because of the extent of undermining evidence;

:: Ten cases of third-party disclosures;

:: Three cases of mistaken identity;

:: Three complaints made anonymously.

Sir Edward was the most high-profile political figure to be linked to child sex abuse allegations that swept across Westminster.

A raft of politicians from across the spectrum have been accused of abusing children, including Liberal Democrat Sir Cyril Smith and Labour peer and former MP Lord Janner.

The report reveals that most of the alleged victims were boys aged 11 to 15 and the allegations date from 1961, when Sir Edward was in the Macmillan government, to 1992, when he was in his 70s.

None of the allegations for which Sir Edward would have been questioned relate to when he was prime minister.

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Friends have said the allegations are 'totally uncharacteristic and unlikely' (PA)

But two of the alleged offences covered the period when Sir Edward was in Downing Street, although they did not meet the formal interview threshold.

Operation Conifer was launched in 2015 after Sir Edward was named as a suspect in an investigation into historical child sex abuse. Police have not found any evidence to suggest “opportunities were missed” to investigate him while alive.

The inquiry has proven controversial ever since it began when a senior police officer made a television appeal outside Sir Edward’s former stately home, Arundells, urging potential victims to come forward.

Last year, the probe found no evidence that a prosecution against brothel-keeper Myra Ling-Ling Forde was dropped because of threats to allege publicly that Sir Edward had been involved in sexual offences.

Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale defended launching Operation Conifer but he said he did not believe there was a need for a judge-led review of the allegations.

“There have been many views expressed as to whether the police should investigate alleged offences committed by a deceased suspect,” he said.

“I believe this was the right moral, ethical and professional thing to do, but I appreciate that every case needs to be judged on its own merits.

“Sir Edward Heath was an extremely prominent, influential and high-profile person who was arguably one of the most powerful people in the world commensurate with the political office he held.

“The allegations against him were of the utmost seriousness and from a significant number of people.

“I hope people will understand that, given these circumstances, it would be an indefensible dereliction of my public duty as a chief constable not to have investigated such serious allegations against a former prime minister, even though he is deceased.

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Arundells, the former home of Sir Edward Heath in Salisbury (Steve Parsons/PA)

“I recognise that this investigation, the findings and the summary closure report may raise further questions.

“But I also believe it signals a watershed moment for people and victims who have suggested or implied there has been a state cover-up for some senior figures who may have been involved in child sexual abuse.”

Mr Veale added the inquiry was “politically sensitive” but denied direct pressure on investigators.

“There’s been a huge and significant amount of speculation and misleading commentary in the public domain but specifically there has been no political pressure whatsoever in relation to the conduct and delivery of the outcomes of this investigation,” he said.

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