'First-class policeman' was killed on ricin raid

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In the last phone conversation with his father, Stephen Oake said he was about to start an "awkward" task. He did not elaborate and ended with: "See you, Dad."

In the last phone conversation with his father, Stephen Oake said he was about to start an "awkward" task. He did not elaborate and ended with: "See you, Dad."

Two days later Detective Constable Oake was dead, stabbed eight times in the chest by Kamel Bourgass in a flat at Crumpsall, north Manchester, where he and colleagues had gone to arrest a terrorist suspect.

His death at 40 deprived Greater Manchester Police (GMP) of a man described as a "real thief-taker and first-class officer", whose reasons for joining the force were on his application form 19 years earlier and read out at his funeral by his chief constable. "I feel it is a way of contributing to the community," he had said. I enjoy helping others with any problems they may have."

An unassuming individual, DC Oake worked as a cartographer before quietly joining GMP without telling his father, Robin, a former GMP assistant chief constable. Father and son were in GMP together for two years before Oake senior was appointed the Isle of Man's chief constable.

DC Oake worked initially on the south Manchester division, spending eight years as a traffic officer. True to his reputation for catching criminals, he arrested two armed robbers in Salford on his last day in uniform before transferring to Special Branch in 1999. There, he worked mostly at Manchester airport and was selected for royal protection duties. He protected the Prime Minister and, at Manchester's 2002 Commonwealth Games, the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

His life was also characterised by the deep Christian faith he shared with his father, and Lesley, his wife of 20 years, with whom he had raised three children, Christopher, Rebecca, and Corinne (or Cozzie, as he called her), at their home in Poynton, Cheshire.

The family shared passions for football (following Chelsea), their 18-month border collie and music. DC Oake played in the musical group at the local Baptist church, where he was a lay preacher. He had bought a new trumpet a week before he died, and played it in church on the last Sunday of his life.

Rebecca Oake recalls how her father lived for his work and was inclined to fall asleep over the dinner table after working the early shift. On one occasion, she disappeared to the kitchen, returned with two aluminium pan lids and sounded an impromptu alarm call.

In a prayer she wrote for her father's funeral, attended by 1,000 mourners including Prime Minister Tony Blair and officers of the New York police department at Manchester cathedral, DC Oake was also remembered by Rebecca for his humour and his zest for life.

"You made us laugh by saying funny things, totally unrelated to what we were talking about," she said in her prayer.

Robin Oake has questioned the wisdom of Special Branch not being told to wear body armour in potentially hazardous raids. "I don't know why Steve wasn't wearing protective clothing. This is issued and you need to wear it."

But in his only interview since Bourgass' conviction, he said his son had "found his niche" in Special Branch. "He liked being with people and he liked to delve, liked to investigate [and] he was a policeman's policeman," Mr Oake said. "He would never shy away, even if it was risky. He was good at meeting people and being a protection officer, meeting important people. That didn't faze him. He just seemed to be in his element.

"We are not deeply bitter and deeply angry, thrashing about wanting revenge. We will carry on saying [Bourgass] has been forgiven by us."

Lesley Oake said she and her husband had discussed what would happen if he died. "Stephen would say,'You must carry on and you must pursue life. You can't let it pull you down'," she said. She also said her faith enabled her to forgive Bourgass. "I just felt quite sad in a sense that this person, things had gone so wrong for him," she said.