Anti-terror chief resigns after 'improper contact' claims

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Britain's top anti-terror police officer has retired after being accused of bombarding a woman at the office of the police watchdog with 400 phone calls and text messages.

Andy Hayman was already under pressure over his expenses claims and criticism of his conduct after the killing in Stockwell of Jean Charles de Menezes. But he made the decision to step down when confronted by suggestions that he had improper contacts with an employee at the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Channel 4 News reported that Mr Hayman rang or texted the woman 400 times in two months while the IPCC was compiling a report on the death of Mr de Menezes. In a breach of guidelines for senior police officers, these contacts were not disclosed.

The programme reported that he decided to retire on Monday, the same day that it put the allegations to him. An IPCC spokeswoman said last night: "We have satisfied ourselves as far as we can that there was no improper sharing of information. It appears the calls were not work related."

Mr Hayman, 48, also faced accusations that he claimed at least £15,000, including bills for hotel rooms and drinks for colleagues, on his police American Express card over a period of two and half years. There was no suggestion that he broke the law and he is said to have provided full details of his expenditure in each case. He was also facing an investigation into foreign trips with a female police sergeant.

Mr Hayman said it had been a great honour to head the Specialist Operations Directorate, including the Counter Terrorist Command, since February 2005. He added: "Recent weeks have seen a series of leaks and unfounded accusations about me, which I have and will continue to refute strongly. However, these events take their toll on you personally and I feel now is the right time for me to step aside and a new person to take over."

Mr Hayman led the day-to-day fight against the threat from al-Qa'ida. He was also in charge of liaising with security agencies including MI5, briefing the Prime Minister on the terror threat and protecting the Royal Family

He initially won praise for the Met's response to the July 7 suicide bombings in 2005, but the headlines turned sour when Mr de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian electrician, was shot dead 15 days later. The Independent Police Complaints Commission accused him of "misleading the public" by trying to hide the fact that the dead man was not a suspect of the July 21 suicide bombing plot.

Mr Hayman is a close ally of Sir Ian Blair, and his departure is a further blow for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who has faced calls to resign over the killing of Mr de Menezes.

A report into Mr Hayman's spending has gone to the Metropolitan Police Authority's professional standards sub-committee. It had been expected to make a decision within the next month.