Cressida Dick bows out as the top woman officer in police ranks for Foreign Office job

Ms Dick was cleared of blame over killing of Jean Charles de Menezes

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Britain’s most high-profile female police officer, who was moved from her job as head of national counter-terrorism operations this year, has quit the service for a secretive position at the Foreign Office.

Cressida Dick, 54, leaves after 31 years with Scotland Yard, and a series of key positions leading the force’s response to the September 11 attacks in the United States and the 2005 terror attacks on London transport.

She was thrust to prominence as the senior commander running the operation that resulted in the 2005 shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian electrician wrongly identified as a suicide bomber after the London attacks. A jury cleared her of blame.

Despite her role coming under scrutiny, she retained the faith of senior officers resulting in her three-year leadership of national police counter-terrorism operations until the summer, when she was put in charge of murder squads, gun teams and child abuse inquiries in a Scotland Yard reshuffle.

She had responsibility for some of the most sensitive inquiries including phone hacking and the re-investigation of the Stephen Lawrence murder that ended in the conviction of two of the teenager’s killers, nearly 20 years after the first botched inquiry.

Popular among the rank-and-file, Ms Dick was once tipped to become the first commissioner of Scotland Yard. After her move from the anti-terror role, she unsuccessfully sought the top police job in Northern Ireland before taking up the Foreign Office post which starts next month.

The Foreign Office said she would take a director-general level post, but declined further details. In her counter-terrorismrole, she forged close relations with the security agencies and overseas counterparts.

“I first joined the Met in 1983 and have loved my time in London,” she said. “It has been a wonderful privilege to work in such an extraordinary organisation and with such fabulous people.”

The departure of Ms Dick – who was also President of the British Association of Women Police – was announced as another senior officer, Sara Thornton, chief constable of Thames Valley, was made the head of a new police chiefs’ body coordinating national operations.

Ms Dick was named on a “power list” by BBC Woman’s Hour. In an interview for the programme about de Menezes, she said: “It was a very difficult time. For an innocent man to be killed at the hands of the police is thankfully incredibly rare and an awful, awful thing.

“It was my job and my duty to get on with it. I had to explain what happened, tell the truth and stand up and be counted.”

Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said: “Cressida Dick has been a fantastic leader and [taken] on some of the most difficult roles. She is a role model for women across the service.”