An inquiry to be conducted nationally into claims that former prime minister Edward Heath sexually abused children is to be led by Wiltshire Police.

Wiltshire are one of seven police forces carrying out investigations linked to abuse claims involving Heath. They said having a lead force would ensure a “consistent approach” across the police forces.

The inquiry will be carried out under the umbrella of Operation Hydrant, the overarching operation pulling together a number of investigations into alleged sexual abuse in the past by members of institutions, and high-profile individuals.

The crux of the allegations against the former prime minister, who died at his home in Salisbury,Wiltshire in 2005, was denied last week by a former brothel keeper, said to be the original source of claims in the 1990s that Heath abused boys.

Earlier this month, the Independent Police Complaints Commission announced it was investigating claims that a trial was halted in the 1990s because it would have resulted in the exposure of the allegations about Heath. The IPCC said the claims originated from a former senior Wiltshire police officer.

Christine Sands, head of abuse claims department at Jordans Solicitors, said: “With the high profile nature of these inquiries and the shift in willingness of victims to come forward and tell their stories knowing they will be taken seriously it is hoped that justice, however belated, will be achieved.“

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