AN INDEPENDENT scrutiny panel has today “commended” Wiltshire Police for their involvement in Operation Conifer.

The force had been heavily criticised for its role in the investigation into historic sex abuse but the panel tasked with scrutinising investigation decisions said the inquiry had been “fair, sensitive and rigorous with regard to both victim and suspects”.

The panel said it had “a wish to record that at all stages Wiltshire Police have allowed us to check and test their decision making and approach to all aspects of the investigation”.

It said Sir Edward’s public position meant “it was entirely warranted to consider the disclosures that were made” and deemed it a “unique event in British policing”, adding: “We wish to commend Wiltshire Police for conducting a thorough, but proportionate investigation.”

A summary closure report published today confirmed that Wiltshire Police had launched an investigation into allegations against Sir Edward Heath in 2014, after a retired police officer came forward with information.

The officer “expressed concerns” that a crown court trial in Wiltshire had been “discontinued” in 1994, to prevent the defendant publicly claiming the former Tory prime minister had been involved in child sex abuse, implying Wiltshire Police was “complicit” in covering up alleged paedophilia.

But a probe launched by the Independent Police Complaints Commission into the alleged historical corruption found no evidence that the retired officer’s claims were true.

Last November Dr Rachel Hoskins, a leading criminologist enlisted by detectives to examine the evidence in the inquiry, warned the force she had uncovered a “catalogue of fabrication”.

She branded the inquiry “a disgrace” and said one of Heath’s key accusers had made “pernicious” claims of satanic ritual abuse and said she was “profoundly disturbed” by uncorroborated witnesses.

The most notable included a woman referred to as Lucy X, who had previously made claims of satanic abuse in Tidworth in 1989 which were later dismissed as “nonsense”.

Dr Hoskins said the woman had made claims under hypnosis that dredged up “false memories” and her allegations were the result of an “over-active imagination”.

 In December chief constable Mike Veale wrote a public letter to “set the record straight”.

In it, he said the decision to undertake the “incredibly complex and challenging investigation” was “not taken lightly”, but added he would not be “buckling under pressure not to investigate or to conclude the investigation prematurely”.