Edward Heath abuse claims: Police to examine private papers

Ted Heath Image copyright PA Wire
Image caption Sir Edward Heath was prime minister from 1970 to 1974 and died in 2005

An archive of former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath's private papers is to be examined as part of a police inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse.

Wiltshire Police is appointing civilian researchers to examine more than 4,000 boxes of documents donated to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

They include personal papers, as well as records from his time in office.

At least five police forces have received allegations against the former Conservative PM, who died in 2005.

Wiltshire Police is coordinating the ongoing investigation of child abuse allegations involving Sir Edward Heath, who lived in Salisbury for many years.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sir Edward lost the Conservative Party leadership to Margaret Thatcher

A police source told the BBC that the inquiry involved a fairly small team, and a shortage of trained detectives meant civilian researchers were needed to help in the task of examining historical documents.

The Bodleian Library received the entire Heath archive in 2011, but the material has yet to be catalogued.

Five separate inquiries

Wiltshire Police has advertised for experienced criminal investigators whose role will include examining the documents.

A police spokeswoman said: "Our investigation is ongoing and we are conducting a number of enquiries. We are not prepared to discuss any details of the investigation."

The Met, Wiltshire, Kent, Jersey and Hampshire forces are all conducting inquiries into the former prime minister.

Heath investigations

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  • Operation Midland: The BBC understands Sir Edward is being looked at as part of the operation examining claims that boys were abused by a group of powerful men at locations across southern England and in London in the 1970s and 1980s. It has focused on the Dolphin Square estate in the Pimlico area of London.
  • Operation Whistle: The States of Jersey Police has confirmed Sir Edward forms part of its investigation into historical allegations of abuse. It says some of the allegations relate to abuse "within institutions or by people of public prominence".
  • Operation Hydrant: A nationally co-ordinated exercise to collate all allegations of historical abuse involving high profile figures. The operation has been notified of Sir Edward being named in connection with an allegation of sexual assault in the 1960s.

Historical child abuse: Key investigations

Sir Edward led the Conservative government between 1970 and 1974, and took Britain into what was then the European Economic Community during his time as PM.

He lost the leadership of the party to Margaret Thatcher in 1975 - something he never forgave her for and he refused to serve in her cabinet.

He was also a successful author, a renowned classical musician and a world-class yachtsman.

He died in 2005, aged 89, at his home in Salisbury.

The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, which operates a museum at his former home, Arundells, has previously said it is confident he will be cleared of any wrongdoing.

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