Wiltshire Police is appointed lead force after number of investigations into ex-PM tops 12
Exaro can reveal the astonishing explosion in the number of investigations, which led to an announcement today that one force, Wiltshire Police, will lead on the Heath allegations.
Seven police forces were previously known to be investigating separate allegations against Heath, but a well-placed source revealed to Exaro that this had mushroomed to more than a dozen.
“The figure has risen over the past few days – more than so far realised,” said the source.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) first named Heath on Monday last week as featuring in an investigation in Wiltshire.
Superintendent Sean Memory, who is leading the investigation for Wiltshire Police, appealed for witnesses to come forward.
He did so on television outside Arundells, Heath’s distinctive home from 1985, in the shadow of Salisbury cathedral in Wiltshire.
Six other police forces were known to be investigating Heath or to have referred an allegation to the IPCC: the Metropolitan Police Service, Jersey Police, Kent Police, Hampshire Constabulary, Gloucestershire Constabulary and Thames Valley Police. In addition, North Yorkshire Police was reviewing its files.
But police chiefs became even more alarmed as the number of forces jumped to more than a dozen.
Through ‘Operation Hydrant’, which is co-ordinating investigations into child sex abuse in the UK, they have for some days been discussing how to take the Heath investigations forward.
Wiltshire Police said in a statement today that the force would lead on investigating allegations against Heath, saying: “Since the announcement of the IPCC investigation and the subsequent appeal by Wiltshire Police for information, there are a number of forces across the UK that has received information from the public.”
“This decision has been taken following consultation between Operation Hydrant and affected forces and is based on operational considerations.
“The appointment of a lead force is to ensure that a consistent approach is adopted across the police forces concerned and to avoid duplication.
“Wiltshire Police will now be working with the respective forces to establish an appropriate national investigative strategy and supporting structure.
“Due to the complexities of this task, it is anticipated that this will take a number of weeks to finalise. One of the first tasks will be to assess the new information that has been received following the appeals for information made last week.”
It repeated its appeal for information.
The IPCC said in its statement last week: “This is an investigation into allegations that Wiltshire Police did not pursue a criminal prosecution when a person threatened to expose that Sir Edward Heath may have been involved in offences concerning children.”
The prosecutor in the case, Nigel Seed, now a judge, later confirmed that a brothel madam, Myra Ling-Ling Forde, made the threat. But he said that the case was dropped because two prosecution witnesses failed to show for the trial.
The announcement that Wiltshire Police will take the lead will surprise some because its own actions are under investigation by the IPCC in relation to Heath.
Following the IPCC’s naming of the former prime minister last week, Exaro revealed that the Met, under ‘Operation Midland’, had for nearly a year been investigating allegations of child sex abuse by Heath as part of the ‘Westminster paedophile network’ after a key witness known only as “Nick” came forward.
Scotland Yard began that investigation last October after Nick met detectives from the Met’s paedophile unit, accompanied by an Exaro reporter.
The Met is investigating a group of alleged paedophiles that includes Heath, and it is unclear how the allegations by Nick specifically about the former prime minister can be isolated from its wider operation.
Friends and former colleagues of Heath’s have dismissed the allegations against him. Robert Vaudry, Heath’s private secretary from 1988 to 1992, said: “There were Special Branch officers with him all the time.”
The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation said in a statement: “We welcome the investigation by Wiltshire Police, which we wholeheartedly believe will clear Sir Edward’s name, and we will co-operate fully with the police in their enquiries.”
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