4 Aug 2015

Former British PM investigated over abuse claims

12:07 pm on 4 August 2015

A former British prime minister has been drawn into the web of historic child sex abuse allegations in Britain.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has announced an investigation involving Sir Edward Heath, who was prime minister from 1970 to 1974.

Sir Edward Heath

Sir Edward Heath Photo: AFP

It said it would investigate a claim from a retired senior policeman that the prosecution of a person accused of child sex abuse in the 1990s was dropped when they threatened to expose Sir Edward.

While the investigation is into alleged historic corruption rather than whether the former leader committed a crime, it is the first time a senior figure has been named in connection with such claims.

Sir Edward died at his home in Salisbury, south of London in 2005 aged 89.

An IPCC spokesman said: "It is alleged that a criminal prosecution was not pursued when a person threatened to expose that Sir Edward Heath may have been involved in offences concerning children.

"In addition to this allegation, the IPCC will examine whether Wiltshire Police subsequently took any steps to investigate these claims."

In a statement, Wiltshire Police said: "Sir Edward Heath has been named in relation to offences concerning children.

"He lived in Salisbury for many years and we would like to hear from anyone who has any relevant information that may assist us in our inquiries or anyone who believes they may have been a victim.

"Some people may never have spoken out about the abuse they have suffered but we would urge them to please contact us and to not suffer in silence."

The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, which operates the museum at Arundells, his home in Salisbury, said it welcomed the investigation.

"We wholeheartedly believe (it) will clear Sir Edward's name and we will co-operate fully with the police in their enquiries," a spokesman said.

Sir Edward led the 1970-1974 Conservative government and took Britain into what was then the European Economic Community.

His time in power was beset by industrial action and economic difficulties that forced him to introduce a three-day week.

He lost his leadership of the party to Margaret Thatcher in 1975 - something he never forgave her for and he refused to serve in her cabinet.

In his later years he became the Father of the House of Commons, the longest-serving MP.

He was a successful author, an avid art-collector and a world-class yachtsman.

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