Nationally coordinated police inquiry to be set up by end of week, as former brothel keeper denies knowledge of any misconduct by former PM
A nationally coordinated police investigation into claims that the former prime minister Edward Heath sexually abused children is to be set up by the end of the week.
The inquiry will be led by a senior investigating officer who is likely to be appointed from either the Kent, Wiltshire or Hampshire force, all of which are investigating separate allegations that Heath sexually abused children.
But a central plank of the allegations against the former prime minister, who died in 2005, was denied on Wednesday by a former brothel keeper – said to be the original source of claims in the 1990s that Heath abused boys.
On Monday, the Independent Police Complaints Commission announced it was investigating claims that a trial was halted in the 1990s because it would have resulted in the exposure of the allegations about Heath. The IPCC said the claims originated from a former senior Wiltshire police officer.
But Myra Forde, 67, said on Wednesday she had no knowledge of any misconduct by Heath, and denied threatening to expose him to escape prosecution in the 1990s. A prosecution against Forde was dropped in 1992.
In a statement issued to the Salisbury Journal, Richard Griffiths, a solicitor who acted for Forde, said: “My former client wishes me to make it very clear that at no stage did she state that Ted Heath was a client and at no stage did she threaten to expose him as a client of hers if the prosecution was continued.”
He added: “For the avoidance of any doubt Myra Forde wishes me to make it clear that she had no involvement with Ted Heath of any kind and has no knowledge of any misconduct on his part.” He said the 1992 trial did not proceed because of difficulties with a witness.
Forde was later jailed twice for operating a brothel in Salisbury.
In the Times, the barriester who prosecuted the original case, Nigel Seed, said he was told by police that Forde planned to make the allegation about Heath but denied this was the reason for stopping the trial. None of the three witnesses in the case would give evidence, so there was no option but to halt the case, he said.
The IPCC – which is investigating claims from a retired senior officer that Wiltshire police covered up allegations against Heath in the 90s – said it could not confirm or deny whether Forde was the original source.
Wiltshire police, which referred itself to the IPCC, said it would not comment on Forde’s denial.
The nationally coordinated response to the emerging allegations against Heath is seen as necessary to bring together inquiries being carried out by at least four forces. It is likely to be announced by the end of this week and will be carried out under the umbrella of Operation Hydrant, the overarching operation pulling together a number of investigations into alleged sexual abuse in the past by members of institutions, and high-profile individuals.
A spokesman for the National Police Chiefs’ Council said: “Staff from Operation Hydrant are working closely with relevant forces to assess the extend of reported information concerning the late Sir Edward Heath, and at the conclusion of that process a lead force will be appointed to oversee the police investigations.”
An NSPCC helpline – which is being used as part of the inquiries into Heath – has received a small number of calls since his name was first released into the public domain by the IPCC this week.
Heath is one of around 76 politicians – some alive and some dead – who have been or are still being investigated by forces across the country examining allegations of sexual abuse of children. The identities of most of the politicians have been kept out of the public domain.
Wiltshire police on Monday appealed for any “witnesses or victims who support the allegations of child sex abuse” to come forward, saying Heath had been named in relation to offences concerning children, and they wanted to hear from anyone who had relevant information.
Since the announcement – made by a Wiltshire officer outside Heath’s former home near Salisbury – the Hampshire, Kent and Jersey forces have also said they are investigating allegations of abuse by Heath.
Kent police said they had received an allegation on Tuesday relating to an allegation of sexual assault in the east Kent area in the 1960s and detectives were making initial inquiries. Hampshire police confirmed they were investigating allegations of abuse relating to Heath, and the Jersey force confirmed he had been a suspect for months in its investigation into historical abuse on the island.
The Metropolitan police do not have an ongoing investigation into allegations of abuse by Heath. The force said it had interviewed a complainant in April who alleged in the Mirror newspaper this week that he was raped by Heath as a 12-year-old boy.
But the force said that, after making a full assessment, there were no lines of inquiry that could “proportionately” be pursued. The force has refused to confirm whether Heath features in Operation Midland – its ongoing investigation into claims that three murders were carried out to cover up abuse by a paedophile ring made up of politicians and other high-profile individuals at locations across southern England.
Earlier this year, Simon Bailey, who runs Operation Hydrant, said forces across the country were investigating or had investigated 1,433 men since 2014 over allegations of child abuse in the past. The suspects included 261 high-profile individuals, of whom 76 were politicians – both local and national figures – 43 were from the music industry, 135 from TV, film, or radio, and seven from the world of sport. He said 216 of those named were dead.
Source: The Guardian