Costly investigation behind airliner gang trial

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A major police investigation which cost two forces more than £35 million lies behind the airliner trial.

The probe into the murderous plot led to court proceedings which ran up an estimated bill for a further £100 million.

Scotland Yard launched the investigation into the terror plan, running it simultaneously with an inquiry into training camps.

Detectives carried out round-the-clock surveillance on the airliner gang, with sound probes used at their east London bomb factory.

The Metropolitan Police put the combined cost of the two anti-terror investigations up to March 2008 at £28 million. Costs since then are "minimal", the force said.

Most of the bill resulted from the operation linked to the airliner plot, and the Home Office refunded £3 million.

Thames Valley police were called in to scour woodland in High Wycombe where the gang had stashed materials.

The extensive searches added £7.8 million to the cost of the operation, which then led to lengthy criminal proceedings.

The Crown Prosecution Service and the Legal Services Commission refused to reveal how much the case has cost them, but a source close to the trial estimated the final bill to be around £100 million.

This covers the first trial, which ended in September last year and did not involve Donald Stewart-Whyte, and this year's proceedings.

At the end of the initial trial Andy Hayman, who was head of special operations at the Metropolitan Police, claimed Scotland Yard had to resist "severe pressure" from Thames Valley to end the search in High Wycombe because of cost.

He said detectives faced problems with "turf wars" between different forces.

Security experts also claimed that anti-terror arrests in Pakistan forced British police to act against the airliner gang sooner than they planned.

It was alleged that this may have prevented them from gathering stronger evidence - such as air tickets - to show the men were planning to get on board flights carrying their deadly cargo.

Professor Michael Clarke, director of the Royal United Services Institute, said at the time: "There is no doubt about it from my view that the British authorities moved in on this conspiracy earlier than they wanted to."