Police inquiry into 'Plebgate' widens its net

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The Independent Online

Scotland Yard has assigned 30 officers to its major inquiry into the "Plebgate" row as it examines a possible criminal conspiracy to bring down Andrew Mitchell as Chief Whip.

Two police officers who claimed Mr Mitchell called them a "pleb" in a row at the gates of Downing Street are to be interviewed as part of the inquiry.

Scotland Yard's "large-scale and complex" investigation will also look into whether another officer, who claimed to have witnessed the row while off-duty, was the source of a leak to two newspapers that sparked the furore and led to Mr Mitchell's resignation.

The Prime Minister David Cameron called for the inquiry over what he said were possible attempts by a police officer to "blacken the name" of a senior minister. There were calls yesterday to reinstate Mr Mitchell, who was forced to resign two months ago after swearing at Downing Street police officers. Mr Mitchell admits swearing but denies using the term "pleb".

Meanwhile the supposed eyewitness account at the heart of a growing police investigation into the unseating of the former Chief Whip, which is contained in an email, was released last night. The message, alleged to have been sent by an off-duty policeman posing as a member of the public, bears striking similarities to the official Downing Street police log, which was also leaked.

Doubts were raised over police integrity following the release of CCTV footage that questioned the accuracy of the police log leaked to newspapers, as well as the email. The officer is now facing allegations he made up that part of the statement after CCTV footage revealed no passers-by lingering at the gate when the argument took place, counter to his account.

David Cameron and the Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood were in possession of the CCTV evidence which Mr Mitchell claims backed his version of events. However, neither man raised the discrepancy with the Metropolitan Police.

Last night government sources said that while they felt the CCTV images "raised serious questions" over the police account, it was decided to "let it lie" to maintain a good relationship with officers guarding senior politicians.

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