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Former U.K. PM accused of child abuse

LONDON - British police are urging potential victims to come forward after an allegation emerged of the sexual abuse of children by former U.K. Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath.

The appeal was made as a police watchdog said Monday that it would investigate whether a prosecution was dropped in the 1990s when it appeared that Heath might be exposed as a child abusor.

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The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it had received an allegation "that a criminal prosecution was not pursued, when a person threatened to expose that Sir Edward Heath may have been involved in offenses concerning children."

The Wiltshire Police force said it was trying to find "witnesses or victims who support the allegations of child sex abuse," and urged victims to come forward.

Heath, a Conservative, was prime minister between 1970 and 1974 and had a home in Wiltshire county. He died in 2005, aged 89.

A public inquiry in Britain is investigating whether police and other authorities covered up sexual abuse by powerful people over several decades.

In July, Home Secretary Theresa May said she set up the inquiry due to "appalling cases of organized and persistent" sexual abuse, including decades of assaults by the late TV host Jimmy Savile.

"Some of these cases have exposed a failure by public bodies to take their responsibilities seriously," May told the House of Commons, according to Sky News.

A dam of official silence around child abuse in Britain began to break after Saville's death in 2011, when dozens came forward to say he had abused them. Subsequent revelations have implicated other entertainers, as well as clergy and senior politicians.

New Zealand judge Lowell Goddard, who is leading the public inquiry, said last month that Britain had been stunned by revelations about child sexual abuse, and warned that the true scale of the crime has long been underestimated.

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