UK widens child sex abuse probe against ex-PM

2015-08-05 21:37
Edward Heath (AP)

Edward Heath (AP)

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London - At least two more police forces are investigating allegations of child sexual abuse against former British prime minister Edward Heath, after three investigations were announced earlier this week, reports said on Wednesday.

Police in the southern counties of Hampshire and Kent have opened investigations, the BBC and other media quoted sources with the two forces as saying. Neither force has officially confirmed the investigations.

The launch of multiple investigations of alleged child sexual abuse by Heath has raised questions over how the claims, including at least one from the 1960s, were largely hidden from the public for so many years.

"We need a national team on these cases," Tom Watson, a member of parliament from the opposition Labour Party, said on Twitter.

In a commentary for Tuesday's Huffington Post, Watson said he had "heard numerous allegations of police inquiries being abruptly closed down for no apparent reason" since he first raised the issue of organised child abuse in parliament in 2012.

"Whatever the reason for past failures, survivors of child sexual abuse deserve to know what happened," he wrote. "And we need to ensure the state never allows the powerful to evade justice again."

British media on Wednesday said a prosecution was dropped in 1992 against a woman who ran a brothel in the Wiltshire town of Salisbury, where Heath died in 2005 aged 89, because she had threatened to name him in court.

Myra Ling Ling Forde was later convicted of "running a brothel full of underage girls" in Salisbury and has served two prison sentences, the Daily Mail reported.

A lawyer for Forde told the Salisbury Journal that his client denied claims that she had threatened to expose Heath and "wishes me to make it clear that she had no involvement with Ted Heath of any kind and has no knowledge of any misconduct on his part".

Threat to expose Heath

On Monday, Britain's police watchdog said it planned to investigate "allegations concerning Wiltshire police's handling of an alleged claim of child sexual abuse made in the 1990s", which is believed to be linked to the Forde case.

"It is alleged that a criminal prosecution was not pursued, when a person threatened to expose that Sir Edward Heath may have been involved in offences concerning children," the watchdog said.

"Wiltshire police continue to receive a number of calls following appeals for information regarding Sir Edward Heath," the force said on Wednesday, after appealing for witnesses and victims to come forward.

Police in London and the Channel island of Jersey are also examining claims against Heath as part of wider investigations into historical child abuse.

Heath is believed to have lived alone for most of his life.

He spent much of his time outside politics in Salisbury and he was a keen yachtsman who regularly sailed to Jersey during the 1970s and 1980s.

"Rumours and allegations had circulated for years" about child sexual abuse in Jersey by Heath, radio and TV personality Jimmy Savile and other prominent figures, said Stuart Syvret, a former local politician and official in Jersey.

There was a "strong probability" that a 2008 police investigation in Jersey could have "closed in" on Heath and Savile, Syvret wrote on his blog on Tuesday.

But the investigation was halted by "public authorities that already knew of those allegations yet wanted them covered up", he said.

Syvret has tried to expose alleged abuses in Jersey since 2007, when he was the island's top health official.

He was sacked from his health post and charged in 2009 with leaking confidential information online.

Syvret insisted he was a victim of political persecution by authorities who wanted to hide allegations against prominent figures.

Heath's 50-year political career peaked when he served as Conservative prime minister from 1970 to 1974. He was succeeded as party leader by Margaret Thatcher.

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