Ted Heath would have been questioned over seven abuse claims, police say

Violet Powell
October 6, 2017

Wiltshire Police have revealed the findings of Operation Conifer - an huge investigation by five police forces into sexual abuse claims against former Tory PM Sir Edward Heath.

"In July 2017, IICSA issued a notice to Wiltshire Police under Section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005 requesting a copy of the "Senior Investigating Officer Investigation Closure Report" and a copy of the "Operation Conifer Summary Closure Report".

Police said none of the allegations, claiming Sir Edward assaulted victims as young as 10, took place while he was Prime Minister.

None of the allegations about which Wiltshire Police would have questioned Sir Edward relate to when he was prime minister, the force said.

Heath became leader of the Conservative party in 1965.

Mr Seligman has called for a judge-led inquiry into Wiltshire Police's investigation, for the evidence to be examined and independent findings to then be made public. The seven includes the alleged rape of an 11-year-old boy "during a paid sexual encounter in private in a dwelling".

One of the people was cautioned by officers while another is now being investigated.

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, this week defended Sir Edward: 'There is a relatively low threshold for being interviewed under caution, ' he wrote in the Church Times.

Heath died at his home in Salisbury in July 2005 aged 89, which means the claims against him can not be heard at trial and prosecutors can not say whether or not they would have brought charges.

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In it, he said the decision to undertake the "incredibly complex and challenging investigation" was "not taken lightly", but added he would not be "buckling under pressure not to investigate or to conclude the investigation prematurely". This, again, was said to have been during a paid encounter.

The next assault allegedly occurred while Heath was the leader of the opposition in 1967.

Following its release on Thursday, Lord Hunt of Wirral, chair of the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, and Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, former Cabinet Secretary, released a joint statement slamming the report as "profoundly unsatisfactory".

Nineteen allegations were dismissed on the basis of "undermining information", the police said, while a further three were thrown out due to individuals mis-identifying Heath.

Of the 42 allegations identified by Operation Conifer, seven are considered credible enough to question Sir Edward but 22 have been dismissed as unsustainable while 13 are hard to take any further because they were made either anonymously or by third parties.

Ken MacDonald, the former director of public prosecutions, criticised the force for holding a press conference outside Heath's home and appealing for witnesses to come forward - which he said was likely to encourage "fantasists" to come forward.

"In line with the constituted powers of the inquiry, Wiltshire Police will, on receipt of further Section 21 notices, make available to IICSA any further material that it deems relevant to its terms of reference".

Police interviewed Sir Edward's personal police protection officers, his drivers and staff - and also reviewed his private papers held at the Bodleian Library.

The disclosures made against Sir Edward related to alleged offences of child sexual abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse against an adult.

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