Monday 16 September 2019

Heath would have been quizzed over abuse claims - police

Edward Heath. Photo: Reuters
Edward Heath. Photo: Reuters

Rod Minchin

Former British prime minister Edward Heath would be questioned over allegations he raped and indecently assaulted boys as young as 10 were he alive today, a controversial police report has said.

Wiltshire Police's Operation Conifer investigation concluded that seven of the 42 claims would have been sufficiently credible to justify questioning Mr Heath under caution.

The report does not address the question of his guilt or innocence because the remit of the two-year £1.5m (€1.68m) inquiry was to see whether there was enough evidence to interview the former MP for Bexley, who died in 2005 aged 89.

Friends of Mr Heath branded the report "profoundly unsatisfactory" and said a "cloud of suspicion" hangs over him.

Ken Macdonald QC, a former director of public prosecutions, accused police of "covering their backs" at the expense of a man who can no longer defend himself.

Operation Conifer was launched in 2015 after Mr Heath was named as a suspect in an investigation into historical child sex abuse.

The report reveals most of the alleged victims were boys aged 11 to 15. The allegations date from 1961, when Mr Heath was in the Macmillan government, to 1992, when he was in his 70s. None of the allegations for which he would have been questioned relate to his time as prime minister from 1970 to 1974.

Two of the alleged offences covered the period when he was in Downing Street, but they did not meet the formal interview threshold.

Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale defended launching Operation Conifer.

"Sir Edward Heath was an extremely prominent, influential and high-profile person. The allegations against him were of the utmost seriousness and from a significant number of people," he said.

"It would be an indefensible dereliction of my public duty not to have investigated such serious allegations."

Irish Independent

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