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.
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.
The allegations Sir Edward 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.
An NSPCC spokesman said: ‘We urge anyone who has been abused in childhood to report it, however long ago it took place. ‘The effects of abuse can last long into adulthood and it’s imperative that anyone who has gone through such a horrific experience feels that they are going to be taken seriously, and that they get any help they need.
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.’
Friends of Sir Edward Heath said the findings of the police inquiry had left a ‘cloud of suspicion’ hanging over the former prime minister and called for a judge-led investigation, saying: ‘A man is innocent until proven guilty.’ Former Cabinet Secretary Lord Armstrong of Ilminster and Lord Hunt of Wirral said everyone who knew Sir Edward were ‘convinced’ the allegations of child abuse would found to be ‘groundless’.
In a joint statement, they said: ‘The Wiltshire Police report is profoundly unsatisfactory because it neither justifies nor dispels the cloud of suspicion. ‘It contains a summary of the investigation, but draws no conclusion as to Sir Edward’s guilt, although during the investigation the chief constable was heard to express, as he certainly should not have done, his personal view that Sir Edward Heath was probably guilty.
‘As Sir Edward is dead, justice requires that there should be a quasi-judicial process as a substitute for the judicial process. ‘This could be in the form of an independent review by a retired judge, with unrestricted access to all the evidence collected by the Wiltshire Police.
‘In the meantime, a fundamental, time-honoured principle should be respected, namely that a man is innocent until he is proven guilty. ‘All those who knew Sir Edward Heath or worked with him are, without exception, convinced that the allegations of child abuse will all be found to be groundless.
‘Everything that is known of his character, his habits, his intelligence and his principles supports this view. ‘Everyone, alive or dead, should be entitled to justice, but this case is unique and because the allegations involve a former prime minister, this has national as well as personal implications.