Ted Heath controversy: former brothel-keeper to be questioned
Myra Forde to be interviewed amid claims trial witnesses withdrew testimony
North Yorkshire police are trawling their records for references to Ted Heath following publication of an image of the former prime minister with suspected paedophile Jimmy Savile. Photograph: PA Wire
A former brothel-keeper at the centre of a child abuse controversy surrounding Sir Edward Heath is to be questioned by British authorities on the matter for the first time.
Myra Forde (67) was acquitted of running a brothel when the prosecution dropped its case on the first day of trial at Winchester crown court in 1992.
A retired Wiltshire police officer believes the prosecution was aborted because threats were made to expose Heath, the late former prime minister, as a paedophile.
Ms Forde has denied making such threats, but it is understood information handed to Wiltshire police centres on claims that witnesses in her trial were persuaded to withdraw their testimony in order to stop allegations against Heath being heard in public.
She is to be interviewed as a witness for the first time early next week, a source said, although it is unclear which authority will lead the examination. Wiltshire police, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and Scotland Yard all declined to comment.
Ms Forde was not approached by any investigating authority before Wiltshire police stood outside Heath’s former home in Salisbury and appealed for victims or witnesses of his alleged abuse, the source confirmed.
Ms Forde, who now lives in north-west London, was ultimately twice convicted of running a brothel in Salisbury.
The IPCC disclosed on Monday that it was investigating claims by a retired senior officer that the prosecution against a suspect in the 1990s was dropped because threats were made to expose Heath as an alleged child abuser.
At least six police forces – Wiltshire, Hampshire, Kent, Jersey, Gloucestershire and Thames Valley – are looking at allegations linked to the former Tory leader.
North Yorkshire police are trawling their records for references to Heath following publication of images of the former prime minister with suspected paedophiles Jimmy Savile and ice cream mogul Peter Jaconelli.
Scotland Yard refuses to confirm or deny reports that inquiries into Heath form part of Operation Midland, its investigation into an alleged Westminster paedophile ring that preyed on youngsters at locations in southeast England including Dolphin Square, a plush residential block in southwest London.
The National Crime Agency (NCA), a law enforcement body responsible for tackling serious and organised crime, confirmed that one person had contacted them with an allegation against Heath in July last year, which was then passed on to the relevant authority, in this case Jersey police.
Nigel Seed QC, who was the prosecuting barrister in Forde’s 1992 case, wrote a letter to the Times of London, in which he claimed he had been told she intended to accuse Heath of using male sex workers in her trial, but that the case was dropped because three witnesses refused to give evidence.
A police source confirmed the IPCC inquiry would centre on evidence that witnesses were tampered with to stop abuse claims against Heath from coming into the public domain.
A nationally co-ordinated response to emerging allegations against Heath is seen as necessary to bring together a range of inquiries and is likely to be announced by the end of this week.