The former prime minister Sir Edward Heath would be questioned – were he still alive – over allegations that he raped and indecently assaulted boys as young as 10, a controversial police report concluded yesterday.
Amid cries of outrage from friends of the former Conservative leader, who would be 101 had he lived, investigators ruled that seven of the 42 claims against Sir Edward were “sufficiently credible” to justify questioning him under caution.
They include the alleged rape and indecent assault of an 11-year-old boy during a “paid sexual encounter in private in a dwelling”.
The 100-page “summary closure report” compiled by Wiltshire Police at the end of a two-year inquiry, costing £1.5m, does not address the question of his guilt or innocence over accusations which date from 1961 to 1992, when he was in his 70s.
Last night, his friends branded it “profoundly unsatisfactory” and said a “cloud of suspicion” hung over him. Sir Edward was the most high-profile political figure to be linked to child sex abuse allegations that swept across Westminster. A raft of politicians have been accused of abusing children, including the former Rochdale Liberal Sir Cyril Smith and the Labour peer and former MP Lord Janner.
Police had launched the inquiry in 2015. Last year, it found no evidence that a prosecution against a brothel-keeper, Myra Ling-Ling Forde, had been dropped because of threats to publicly expose Sir Edward’s alleged involvement in sexual offences.
Wiltshire’s chief constable Mike Veale dismissed calls for a judge-led inquiry. He said: “I hope people will understand that, given these circumstances, it would be an indefensible dereliction of my public duty as a chief constable not to have investigated such serious allegations against a former prime minister, even though he is deceased.”
The inquiry was not the only high-profile police probe of recent times, set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, to attract fierce criticism.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the then-Scotland Yard commissioner, faced calls to resign after Operation Midland – launched to investigate claims of a VIP paedophile ring and murder allegations – closed in March last year without a single arrest being made.
The Pontefract-born former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor, who was questioned as part of that inquiry, revealed that Sir Edward and the former home secretary Leon Brittan had been named among his “alleged co-conspirators”.
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.”
Sir Edward, a confirmed bachelor whom acquaintances considered “completely asexual”, died in 2005. His godson, artist Lincoln Seligman, 67, said sex was “not on his radar”, and added: “It was just not of interest to him.”