Force admits failures before officer's death

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The Independent Online

An independent investigation has criticised Greater Manchester Police (GMP) for its handling of the raid in which Detective Constable Stephen Oake was murdered.

An independent investigation has criticised Greater Manchester Police (GMP) for its handling of the raid in which Detective Constable Stephen Oake was murdered.

GMP has refused to publish the Tonbridge report into the raid, published after an investigation by Merseyside Police, but the force has acknowledged that it will not allow a repeat of a failure of the night in January 2003: the decision to let four Special Branch officers enter the flat occupied by Kamel Bourgass before it had been secured by armed tactical aid unit (TAU) officers.

GMP also conceded earlier this week that no formal command structure was in place for the raid and there was no formal risk assessment of the flat - in Crumpsall Lane, Manchester - "to ascertain the danger faced by the officers". The force admitted its errors and said they would not be repeated.

Det Con Oake's father Robin - a former GMP assistant chief constable - said his son should have been equipped with body armour. GMP now issues plain-clothes officers with "covert" protective vests. It said that body armour was available to Det Con Oake and his colleagues had they opted to wear it, but insisted that it would not have saved Det Con Oake's life. Two of his three wounds, either of which would have proved fatal, were in areas not protected by stab vests, the force said.

The police officer who has faced most criticism about the raid - codenamed Operation Salt - is the Special Branch detective who led it, known only as "Simon" for security reasons.

He admitted disciplinary offences in February of this year, in relation to the raid. He has left Special Branch for another posting, still with Greater Manchester Police. The force has refused to disclose what disciplinary penalties were imposed, although the prospect of charges against "Simon" have been rejected by the Crown Prosecution Service and the Health and Safety Executive.

Other issues raised by Det Con Oake's death include the failure of surveillance around the Crumpsall Lane flat to establish the presence inside of more than one man; why no consideration was given to the possibility that ricin might be present; and why Bourgass had not been handcuffed in the flat.

Three officers injured in the operation, Special Branch officer "Steve", PC Nigel Fleming and Sgt Paul Grindrod, a TAU officer, have returned to work. Special Branch "John" could not return and has retired.