Police chief quits, but vows to fight 'scurrilous accusations'

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The Independent Online

The "hurt and angry" Chief Constable of Sussex bowed to intense pressure from the Government to quit the force yesterday, vowing to clear his name over the shooting of a naked and unarmed man in a bungled drug raid.

Paul Whitehouse announced his retirement less than a day after David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, had made an unprecedented call for the county's police authority to sack him.

His decision, which ended a 33-year career, was welcomed by Mr Blunkett and the family of the dead man, James Ashley, and opened the way for a public inquiry into the 1998 shooting. But Mr Whitehouse, 56, was clearly bitter at the Home Secretary's intervention, accusing him of a lack of courtesy and vowing to take action against "scurrilous accusations". He was fiercely critical of two independent police investigations into his force.

"I have done nothing wrong," he said. "I have behaved to the highest standards of integrity that I expect all my officers to have. My integrity is my most important possession and to hear it called into question both hurts and angers me.

"I have considered carefully whether I should fight the allegations that have been made against me while I still hold the office of Chief Constable. I shall now carefully consider what action to take in respect of the scurrilous accusations that have been made against me."

Mr Blunkett said he respected Mr Whitehouse's decision, which takes effect in September, and that it was "in the best interests of the force and the people of Sussex". His pension is unaffected and he is entitled to about £60,000 a year.

Two police investigations of the killing of Mr Ashley at home in East Sussex, were critical of senior officers and criminal charges were laid against five officers. They were all cleared.

The final straw for Mr Blunkett was believed to be the decision by Mr Whitehouse to promote two officers involved in planning the raid.

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