Officials investigating claims that former British Prime Minister Ted Heath ran an elite pedophile ring have ‘dramatically widened’ the inquiry after new evidence has emerged.
Government officials have confirmed that they will study the findings of a potentially earth-shattering police report into claims that the former Prime Minister was a child abuser and Satanist.
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Daily Mail reports: The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – set up to investigate claims that a Westminster paedophile ring was covered up by the Establishment – will now look at the outcome of Operation Conifer, a two-year inquiry into Heath led by Wiltshire Chief Constable Mike Veale. His confidential report is due to be published in the next few weeks.
A spokesman for the IICSA told The Mail on Sunday last night: ‘In the context of the Westminster investigation, the inquiry will be interested to see and consider the outcome of Wiltshire Police’s investigation into allegations against Sir Edward Heath.’
It is believed to be the first time the inquiry has referred specifically to the Heath investigation.
The statement follows a little-noticed change on the IICSA website on August 30 that the scope of its Westminster inquiry is to be widened to take account of ‘recent police investigations’.
The amendment did not refer to Operation Conifer, but The Mail on Sunday has been told that it was linked to the imminent conclusion of Mr Veale’s probe.
The website added the IICSA would be ‘reviewing, collating and aggregating the work of previous investigations, some of which may not be in the public domain’.
The Mail on Sunday revealed earlier this year how Mr Veale defied pressure to call off his investigations because he believed some claims were ‘120 per cent genuine’.
The developments came as one Tory MP warned his party not to try to stop Mr Veale from publishing his findings.
Several Conservative politicians have called Operation Conifer, which has cost £1.5 million, a waste of time and public money. They say it is pointless because Sir Edward died 12 years ago and could never be prosecuted.
But Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said Mr Veale had been wrongly vilified and there were ‘powerful voices who would like to silence Operation Conifer’.
Mr Veale was a ‘courageous and honest’ policeman and ‘must be allowed to complete his investigation, free of abuse, intimidation or pressure,’ Mr Bridgen writes in today’s Mail on Sunday. There should be no cover-up, regardless of any embarrassment to the Conservatives – or anyone else.
In February, this newspaper reported that more than 30 people had come forward to Wiltshire Police with allegations of sexual abuse by Sir Edward. The alleged victims were said to have given ‘strikingly similar’ accounts of incidents, even though the individuals were not known to each other.
According to some sources, the findings of Operation Conifer support claims that Sir Edward’s alleged crimes were reported to police years ago but buried by the Establishment.
Some of those who said he abused them are believed to have told police they went on to commit sexual abuse themselves as a result.
Operation Conifer was set up in 2015 in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, but Mr Veale came under pressure to abandon it last year after separate claims of a paedophile ring at Westminster involving the late former Home Secretary Lord Brittan and ex-Defence chief Lord Bramall were found to be groundless.
The claims investigated by Wiltshire Police, understood to date from the 1960s to 1990s, are not linked to the discredited evidence of the man known as ‘Nick’, who made the false claims against Lord Brittan and Lord Bramall. The Met has now apologised and paid a reported £100,000 compensation.
Allegations that Sir Edward was involved in satanic orgies have been dismissed as fantasy by one expert asked to review the case.
Several senior politicians have dismissed allegations against Heath as absurd and unfounded. Former Tory Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind complained Sir Edward’s reputation was being ‘besmirched’.
Former Cabinet Secretary Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, who was Sir Edward’s private secretary in No 10, criticised the inquiry in a letter to The Times last week, saying the allegations were ‘totally uncharacteristic and unlikely.’
Lord Armstrong referred to unspecified ‘concerns about the conduct of the inquiry’ and called for ‘an independent review of the investigation by a retired judge’.
And Wiltshire Tory MP James Gray said: ‘I do not believe the allegations against Sir Edward. If Mr Veale fails to justify his inquiry, he will be in serious difficulties.’
Sir Edward’s sexuality has been the source of speculation for decades. Some believed he was gay, others said he was asexual. At one point, he was being investigated by five police forces: the Met, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Kent and Jersey.
The claims, some of which were proved false, include alleged links to a convicted brothel keeper known as Madam Ling-Ling.
A paedophile dossier compiled by Labour peer Baroness Castle, a member of Harold Wilson’s Labour Government in the 1970s, said Sir Edward offered young boys trips on his yacht. In a separate incident, one man claimed Sir Edward picked him up in the 1960s when he was a 12-year-old hitchhiking in Kent and lured him to his Mayfair flat.
A IICSA spokesman declined to say if the change in its official stance, as detailed on the website, was to enable it to consider the findings of Mr Veale’s report.
Wiltshire Police said it had not yet sent its findings to the national inquiry, but expected to do so within the next six weeks.
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