Yard warns newspaper over covert assignment

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The Independent Online

Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch has reprimanded The Sunday Times after the newspaper was caught trying to buy biological and chemical agents on the internet.

Two detectives have warned the newspaper's editor, John Witherow, of the danger of trying to obtain potentially deadly substances and having them sent to his offices in Wapping, east London.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police's SO13 branch visited the News International headquarters and met the editors of The Times, The Sun, the News of the World and The Sunday Times to express their concerns that a journalist had been trying to obtain agents for weapons by advertising on the internet.

When asked which newspaper was responsible, Mr Witherow raised his hand and admitted that a correspondent on his publication had been involved in the covert assignment. Mr Witherow agreed to drop the story and not to carry out similar trawls on the internet.

Scotland Yard were concerned about the potential danger in which the "investigation" may place post office and News International employees, as well as the time wasted on a police investigation.

Downing Street and the police have continually stressed the importance of avoiding newspaper stunts that might place people's lives in danger and waste police time and resources.

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