Police target former officer who exposed the dirty tricks of the press

Police seize disks in raid on home of key Leveson witness

Police raided the home of a retired Special Branch detective who acted as a whistleblower on the failure of authorities to investigate media dirty tricks, just days before he is to give evidence as a witness to Lord Leveson's inquiry.

Alec Owens, formerly of Merseyside Police, was the lead investigator for the Information Commissioner's "Operation Motorman" inquiry, which uncovered the vast scale on which the media used private detectives to obtain private information, including criminal records and vehicle registrations.

But he is a critic of the ICO's decision not to interview any of the hundreds of journalists named in the 17,000 transactions listed in files seized from Hampshire private detective Steve Whittamore in 2003. No journalist was charged in Operation Motorman.

Mr Owens contacted Lord Justice Leveson about his concerns over the way the matter was handled and is due to give evidence in person to the public inquiry on media standards on 30 November. Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner at the time of Operation Motorman, will appear before the inquiry the next day.

At 7.25am yesterday, two police officers from Wilmslow, Cheshire, armed with with a search warrant, knocked on Mr Owens' door. They demanded documents and electronic files and asked him to come to a police station to be questioned under caution.

Cheshire Police said it had acted "following information received". A spokeswoman added: "The warrant relates to an investigation into allegations concerning breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998."

Mr Owens agreed to hand over his copy of the Operation Motorman computer file but declined to provide the statement he has prepared for Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry. He was asked to attend an interview on Monday and bring the statement with him.

Mr Owens, who has notified Lord Justice Leveson's office of the development, said he believed the raid was connected to his inquiry evidence. "They have come on a fishing expedition to find out what I'm going to say," he said. "But I have told them that statement is for Lord Leveson's eyes only at this stage."

He has already provided a statement and a copy of the Motorman disk to Strathclyde Police, which is investigating media dirty tricks in Scotland. "This is vindictiveness," he said of yesterday's raid. "They want to know what hard evidence I have got and what I am going to say to the Leveson Inquiry." Mr Owens maintains that there are errors that need to be corrected in official reports on Operation Motorman.

In September, The Independent revealed that the Operation Motorman files included previously unpublished details of how tabloid newspapers used private detectives to target figures such as the Duchess of Cambridge and Chelsea Clinton when they were students.

Investigators were also used to target the private information of families of murder victims such as Sarah Payne and Holly Wells.

Suggested Topics
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain