Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Former UK PM Edward Heath ‘would have been questioned over child abuse claims’, say Wiltshire Police

Sir Edward Heath

WILTSHIRE: Sir Edward Heath would have been question over historic sex allegations if he were still alive, Wiltshire Police said today.

Operation Conifer ended on August 31 after two years and a total cost of £1.5 million.

Today Wiltshire Police issued a statement saying: “The investigation, the available evidence and information gathered was considered, and the following conclusions have been made:

“In the case of seven individual disclosures, if Sir Edward Heath had been alive today, it has been concluded that he would have been interviewed under caution in order to obtain his account in relation to the allegations made against him.

“No inference of guilt should be drawn by the decision to interview under caution.

“The account from Sir Edward Heath would have been as important as other evidence gathered as part of the wider investigation.

“None of the victim disclosures in this category relate to the time when he was the serving Prime Minister.

“In the case of 19 individual disclosures, it has been concluded that there is undermining information available, such that the threshold to interview under caution would not be met.

“In the case of three disclosures, the persons reporting alleged abuse have subsequently concluded that they were genuinely mistaken in naming Sir Edward Heath as the perpetrator.

“In the case of 10 disclosures, the alleged abuse was reported by a third party, and in the case of another three; the victim reported the alleged abuse anonymously. In the case of these respective disclosures no findings have been concluded.”

Operation Conifer was a national investigation, led by Wiltshire Police on behalf of the National Police Service, into allegations of non-recent child abuse made against Sir Edward, who led the Conservative government between 1970 and 1974. He died at home in Salisbury in July 2005, aged 89.

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

The Crown Prosecution Service has a policy of not making a charging decision on a suspect who is dead because they cannot be prosecuted and the disclosures made against Sir Edward related to alleged offences of child sexual abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse against an adult. .

The allegations he would have been questioned over include rape of a boy aged 11, indecent assault of a 10-year-old boy and the indecent assault of a 15-year-old boy during three “paid sexual encounters”, and are said to have occurred between 1961 and 1992 in the Met Police, Kent, Sussex, the Channel Islands and Wiltshire force areas.

Wiltshire Police said it carried out an impartial and thorough investigation in line with national guidance from the College of Policing, which states that there is a legal duty for police to proportionately investigate criminal allegations made against deceased persons.

Friends and colleagues of Sir Edward have said he was “completely asexual” and the child sex abuse allegations were “totally uncharacteristic and unlikely”.

Lord Hunt of Wirral, chairman of the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, and Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, former Cabinet Secretary, said in a statement: “The Wiltshire Police report is profoundly unsatisfactory because it neither justifies nor dispels the cloud of suspicion.”

Operation Conifer had four clear distinct objectives, say Wiltshire Police:

•        To identify and safeguard children and vulnerable adults who may be at risk of abuse today
•        To seek to establish the facts concerning allegations of child abuse made against Sir Edward Heath through an objective and proportionate investigation
•        To identify and where possible bring to justice, any living person who may have committed criminal offences relating to child abuse or associated cover up
•        To attempt to provide public confidence in the police response to the allegations that were made

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