UK's Edward Heath would have been quizzed on child sex abuse claims

The late British Prime Minister Edward Heath, pictured in 1990.

Story highlights

  • The findings do not prove or disprove guilt, the report says
  • Police would have pursued the alleged rape of an 11-year-old boy

London (CNN)Police would have questioned former British Prime Minister Edward Heath over allegations of child sex abuse if he were still alive, an investigation has found.

Wiltshire Police in southern England, which led the two-year investigation into Heath, published a report on its findings Thursday and outlined seven allegations of abuse of children and adults that investigators would have pursued, including the alleged rape of an 11-year-old boy in 1961 in a "paid sexual encounter."
Police said that the investigation involved 40 people who claimed Heath had sexually abused them, either as children or as adults, or had physically abused them. Among their claims were rape and indecent assault against children.
    "The report does not draw any conclusions as to the likely guilt or innocence of Sir Edward Heath, or make any comment on the action the Crown Prosecution Service may have taken if he was alive today," Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Mike Veale told reporters.
    "The role of the police service is very clear in the criminal justice process. The police have a duty to investigate and go where the evidence takes us. It is not our role to prove the innocence or guilt, but to simply present the facts."
    The Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, set up in 2005 after the former leader's death, put out a statement describing the report as "profoundly unsatisfactory" as it neither proved or disproved the sex abuse allegations.
    "All those who knew Sir Edward Heath or worked with him are, without exception, convinced that the allegations of child abuse will all be found to be groundless. Everything that is known of his character, his habits, his intelligence and his principles supports this view," said the statement, attributed to the foundation's chair Lord Hunt, and Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, who served as a Cabinet Secretary to Heath.

    'Watershed moment'

    Heath led a Conservative government in the UK from 1970 to 1974 and served in Parliament until 2001. He died in 2005 at age 89 and has become the most senior figure to be investigated for child sex abuse allegations dating back decades.
    Britain has been rocked in recent years by a series of revelations involving the sexual abuse of children by public figures -- including UK entertainer Jimmy Savile -- and allegations that the British establishment may have sought to cover up historic abuse claims involving some former senior politicians.
    Entertainers Rolf Harris and Gary Glitter were convicted of sexual offenses dating back as much as four decades.
    Chief Constable Veale described the report's publication as a "watershed moment" for victims who have complained of cover-ups of child sex abuse committed by state figures.