Former prime minister Edward Heath would have been questioned about alleged sex offences, including the rape of an 11-year-old boy, if he was alive, British police have said. A report into allegations against the Conservative politician, who died in 2005, said that they would have met the legal threshold for police to interview him under caution.
The two-year investigation by Wiltshire Police found no evidence to corroborate the allegations and the report said no inference of guilt should be drawn.
“Further to a proportionate investigation, reasonable grounds exist that, if Sir Edward Heath had been alive today, he would have been interviewed under caution regarding his suspected involvement in an offence,” it said.
The report said that Sir Edward would have been questioned about seven offences, which were alleged to have been committed between 1961 and 1992. The earliest and most serious allegation, dating from 1961, is that he raped and indecently assaulted an 11-year-old boy in London “during a paid sexual encounter in private in a dwelling”.
He is alleged to have indecently assaulted a 10-year-old boy during a chance encounter in a public place in Kent the following year and to have indecently assaulted a 15-year-old during three paid sexual encounters in 1964. Later allegations involve indecent assaults of boys and men, often during what the report describes as chance encounters.
“It is clearly inappropriate to speculate what Heath’s response would have been in relation to the allegations put to him under caution in an interview. His account would have informed the next stages of the investigation strategy and investigators would have looked to check and test his account against the other available evidence,” the report says.
Sir Edward was prime minister from 1970-1974, a committed European who led Britain into the common market in 1973. He lost the Conservative leadership to Margaret Thatcher in 1975 and remained a critic of his successor for the rest of his life.
Wiltshire police found no evidence of an official cover-up of Sir Edward’s alleged offences but the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has said it would investigate further.
“In regard to the allegations concerning Sir Edward Heath, the inquiry will investigate whether there was any knowledge within Westminster institutions, and if so, what actions were taken,” a spokesman said.
‘Waste of time’
Friends of the former prime minister have criticised the investigation, which cost £1.5 million (€1.68m), as a waste of time and money which turned up no evidence against him. Former cabinet secretary Robert Armstrong called for an independent review to evaluate the allegations and any evidence against Sir Edward.
“The Wiltshire Police report is profoundly unsatisfactory because it neither justifies nor dispels the cloud of suspicion. Sir Edward Heath’s reputation should not be left in limbo. The allegations made and the evidence collected by the police should be independently reviewed and an independent conclusion arrived at. That is the only way in which justice can be done,” he said.
Former UK director of public prosecutions Ken Macdonald said it was no surprise that Wiltshire Police should have concluded that they would have interviewed Sir Edward had he been alive.
“This gives entirely bogus credibility to their investigation without meaning anything in forensic terms. The bar for interview is low, in most investigations as low as the police want it to be and in the case of a dead man, virtually non-existent. They are covering their backs at the expense of a dead man. Shame on them,” he said.