LONDON — Former British Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath is being investigated over child sex abuse allegations.
Ted Heath, who died in 2005, has been the subject of unsubstantiated speculation linking him to the sexual abuse of boys for years. The Daily Beast can reveal that he was named in a secret government dossier obtained by a senior Labour Party politician in 1984—but the allegations never made it to the courtroom.
Heath is now the most high-profile person named by investigators working on inquiries into an alleged VIP network of pedophiles who operated at the highest echelons of British public life.
Barbara Castle, a Member of the European Parliament at the time, said she had been given copies of classified documents from the Home Office, which oversees British law enforcement, proving there was a clandestine investigation underway into sex abusers in Parliament. The results of that investigation by government officials never wound up being published or reaching a court of law, but Castle claimed that Heath was one of those implicated.
Among the papers was a small article from the notorious Pedophile Information Exchange’s underground magazine Magpie, which said Heath organized weekend sailing trips for boys on his yacht.
It is unclear whether the allegations in the dossier were ever passed to police or if they were quietly shelved by government officials.
A man who claims he was raped by Heath at the age of 12 has reportedly told Scotland Yard detectives that he is now willing to give evidence about the former prime minister.
The alleged victim, now 65, said he was picked up by the Member of Parliament while hitchhiking and taken back to his luxury apartment in Mayfair.
Wiltshire Police appealed for witnesses and victims to come forward Monday after allegations that claims made a decade later against the Conservative leader had been covered up.
They have finally been forced to open a formal investigation into the allegations after being accused of shutting down a previous case in the 1990s.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission says a retired senior officer has come forward to blow the whistle on colleagues. He claims that a prosecution case was dropped when the alleged criminal threatened to expose Heath’s involvement.
Two decades too late, Wiltshire officials will now investigate those allegations.
“Sir Edward Heath has been named in relation to offenses concerning children,” said a Wiltshire Police spokesman. “He lived in Salisbury for many years and we would like to hear from anyone who has any relevant information that may assist us in our enquiries or anyone who believes they may have been a victim.”
Police officers and the complaints commission have not said whether they have any evidence against him.
By naming a former prime minister, police investigators have once again rocked the British establishment, which has faced a growing storm of accusations against powerful men accused of committing child sex abuse and conspiring to cover it up.
Speaking outside of Heath’s former home in Salisbury, Superintendent Sean Memory gave a press conference appealing for witnesses to come forward.
“The allegation is that a trial was due to take place in the 1990s and information was received in that trial that Sir Ted Heath was involved in the abuse of children… [it is alleged that] the result of that information [was] that the trial never took place,” he said. “A retired senior police officer has come forward towards the end of 2014 indicating that they were aware of this information.”
Tom Watson, a Labour MP who has led the campaign to expose child sex abusers in government, said two claims about Heath had been made to him.
“I received information in 2012 concerning allegations of child abuse carried out by Edward Heath and a separate claim concerning Heath was made to me subsequently,” he told the Press Association. “I passed them both to the police, who have confirmed to me that at least one of those allegations is being investigated and taken seriously.”
Heath, who was prime minister from 1970 to 1974, never married and was famously reluctant to talk about his private life. After a turbulent premiership, which ended in unprecedented waves of strike action that forced the government to switch off the nation’s electricity for up to nine hours a day, Heath remained a Member of Parliament until 2001.
After his death, Heath was outed as a gay man by at least two fellow Conservative politicians. In 2007, Brian Coleman, a Tory representative in the London Assembly, said Heath had been “advised to cease his Cottaging activities [procuring sex in public toilets] in the 1950s” if he was to have a successful political career.
Matthew Parris, a gay former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, said he was sure about Heath’s sexuality. “I have no doubt Ted was gay,” he wrote in 2012. In a previous column, he recalled: “As a young Tory MP, [when] I escorted his car into my constituency, leather-jacketed on my motorbike, I used to notice the twinkle in Ted’s eye.”
Widespread Westminster rumors about his homosexuality may have led to speculation that Heath was interested in teenage boys, but an allegation made in court that he had been captured in a pornographic photograph with two children was dismissed by the judge as well as most casual observers.
The man who made the extraordinary claim was Kenneth O’Dowd, an uncle to Boy George, the androgynous lead singer of ’80s band Culture Club. O’Dowd, who was convicted of a string offenses including rape and bigamy, claimed he was being set up because of the compromising photographs he had obtained.
Heath’s chief whip admitted in a BBC interview 20 years ago that political operatives had ways of ensuring that damaging stories about politicians’ private lives stayed out of the public domain.
“Anyone with any sense, who was in trouble, would come to the whips and tell them the truth, and say ‘Now, I’m in a jam, can you help?’ It might be debt, it might be… a scandal involving small boys, or any kind of scandal in which, erm er, a member seemed likely to be mixed up in, they’d come and ask if we could help and if we could, we did,” said Tim Fortescue.
“And we would do everything we can because we would store up brownie points… and if, I mean—that sounds a pretty, pretty nasty reason—but it’s one of the reasons because if we could get a chap out of trouble then, he will do as we ask forever more.”