British police have asked for any alleged pedophilia victims of former Prime Minister Edward Heath to come forward. The sensational development is the latest in a series of allegations against top British figures of the recent past and pedophile rings and behavior.

The appeal was made as the police watchdog body announced that it was investigating claims that officers dropped a prosecution against a man in the 1990s after he threatened to name Heath as a child abuser. Heath was a lifelong bachelor and rumors and innuendo about him being gay were prevalent at the time, but accusations of pedophilia come as a major shock.

The watchdog group said: “The Independent Police Complaints Commission is to investigate allegations that Wiltshire police didn’t pursue a prosecution when a person threatened to say Sir Edward Heath may have been involved in offences concerning children. In addition to this allegation, the IPCC will examine whether Wiltshire police subsequently took any steps to investigate these claims.”

The Guardian newspaper has also learned that detectives have spoken to a man, now middle-aged, who says he was abused as a child by Heath on several occasions.

Wiltshire police made the appeal for “anyone who believes they may have been a victim” of the former Conservative leader to come forward.

In a statement, Wiltshire Police said: "Sir Edward Heath has been named in relation to offences concerning children.

"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 inquiries or anyone who believes they may have been a victim.

"Some people may never have spoken out about the abuse they have suffered, but we would urge them to please contact us and to not suffer in silence."

The Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, which operates the museum at Arundells, his home in Salisbury, said it welcomed the investigation.

"We wholeheartedly believe (it) will clear Sir Edward's name and we will co-operate fully with the police in their enquiries," a spokesman said.

Heath governed from 1970 to 1974 during a bloody period in the history of the Northern Ireland Troubles. It has been claimed that he gave approval for the “Dirty War” which involved using Loyalist killers to take out leading Republicans and cover up their activities. He also introduced internment without trial in August 1971 which many believe was the biggest mistake of 'The Troubles' as it utterly inflamed nationalist neighborhoods.

On Bloody Sunday in 1972, 14 men were killed by British soldiers during a civil rights march in Derry. Giving evidence to the Saville Inquiry in 2003 Heath claimed there was no order from the top to give the go-ahead for the killings, but that has been strongly disputed.

Heath had close ties to the military having served with distinction during the Second World War during which he took part in the Normandy invasion.

He also tried to reach a negotiated settlement in the North. In early 1971 Heath sent in a Secret Intelligence Service officer, Frank Steele, to talk to the IRA and find out what common ground there was for negotiations. Steele had carried out secret talks with Jomo Kenyatta ahead of the British withdrawal from Kenya. In July 1972, Heath permitted his Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, William Whitelaw, to hold unofficial talks in London with an IRA delegation by Seán Mac Stiofáin. In the aftermath of these unsuccessful talks, the Heath government pushed for a peaceful settlement with the democratic political parties.

The 1973 Sunningdale Agreement, which proposed a power-sharing deal, was strongly repudiated by many Unionists and the Ulster Unionist Party, which withdrew its MPs at Westminster from the Conservative whip. The proposal was finally brought down by the Loyalist Ulster Workers' Council strike in 1974 (although by then Heath was no longer in office).

Heath was targeted by the IRA for introducing internment in Northern Ireland. In December 1974, the Balcombe Street ASU threw a bomb onto the first-floor balcony of Heath's home in Wilton Street, Belgravia where it exploded. Heath had been conducting a Christmas carol concert at Broadstairs and arrived home 10 minutes after the bomb exploded. No one was injured in the attack.

In January 2003, Heath gave evidence to the Saville Inquiry and stated that he had never sanctioned unlawful lethal force in Northern Ireland. He died in 2005, aged 89.

Prime Minister Edward Heath served during height of North troubles from 1970 to 1974.Allan Warren . Commons Wikimedia