On Monday, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), a British police watchdog, announced that it was opening an investigation into whether the police force in the English county of Wiltshire covered up allegations of pedophilia made against former British Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath in the 1990s.
The IPCC also said it was going to investigate whether Wiltshire police dropped a criminal prosecution in the 90s after the defendant in the case—who according to the BBC was a female brothel keeper—threatened to expose the former Conservative PM as a pedophile.
This alleged coverup in the 90s was apparently reported to Wiltshire police by a retired police officer late last year. (Wiltshire police were then obliged by law to report the complaint to the IPCC.) The officer who made the allegations is believed to have complained in the 1990s about the incident but his concerns were apparently ignored.
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Heath, who was Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974 and died in 2005 at the age of 89, is the most famous British politician to be accused of pedophilia, but he's by no means the first—over the past year, the UK has been consumed by pedophilia scandals, as a parade of public figures, including BBC host Jimmy Saville and multiple former members of parliament (MPs), have been accused of sexually abusing children.
After the IPCC statement was released on Monday, Wiltshire police said that they were reopening their own inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse by Heath. Then, just hours after the statements from the IPCC and Wiltshire police, the Daily Mirror published the testimony of a man who claims he was raped by Heath when he was a 12-year-old boy, over 50 years ago.
The alleged victim said that he was picked up by the then Conservative MP in 1961 after he ran away from home and that he was taken to a Mayfair flat where he was raped by Heath. The man claims that he reported the attack to social workers two months later but was "fobbed off."
On Tuesday, police forces in Kent and Jersey announced they were also opening investigations into allegations of child abuse by Heath.
"The victim has named Sir Edward Heath in connection with the allegation. Detectives are making initial enquiries," Kent Police told the BBC. Jersey police said the allegations related to abuse "within institutions or by people of public prominence."
The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, which runs a museum at the PM's former home, Arundells, said they welcomed the investigation. "We wholeheartedly believe [it] will clear Sir Edward's name and we will cooperate fully with the police in their enquiries," a spokesman told the BBC.
Allegations against Heath have been in the public domain since at least 2012, when Labour MP Tom Watson brought claims of a VIP pedophile in Westminster in the 1970s and 1980s to the attention of the House of Commons.
Watson passed on information regarding allegations against Heath and other politicians, including Sir Cyril Smith, to the police in October 2012. The police confirmed at the time that they were investigating the claims against Heath.
British police launched Operation Fairbank in 2012 to look into the allegations of a VIP pedophile ring operating in Westminster; they launched Operation Midland in 2014 in response to allegations that three boys who had been sexually abused were murdered in London in the 1970s and 1980s to protect the identities of senior politicians.
Soon after the Watson allegations in 2012, the British Crown Prosecution Service admitted that Smith, a Liberal MP who died in 2010, was a pedophile and should have been charged with the sexual abuse of boys during his lifetime. In 2014 it came out that 144 separate complaints had been made against Smith while he was alive but public authorities—including local government, the police, and the British intelligence services—had blocked attempts to prosecute him.