A modest man with three children who became a prolific thief taker

By Ian Herbert
Thursday 16 January 2003 01:00

The first officer in more than a decade to die during an anti-terrorist operation in mainland Britain was no ordinary detective. In the aftermath of his murder yesterday, Tony Blair spoke from first-hand experience about his ability.

The Prime Minister revealed that 40-year-old Stephen Oake – family man, father of three, a committed Christian and lay preacher – had served him as a Special Branch officer on visits to north-west England.

"DC Oake was someone I had met when he worked with my security team," Mr Blair told the House of Commons yesterday. "His family has lost a very fine man. The community has lost a very fine police officer, someone whose death we mourn."

DC Oake's Special Branch work also included protection duties for the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and other members of the Royal Family at last summer's Manchester Commonwealth Games – work that earnt him a commendation.

He followed in the footsteps of his father – a former Greater Manchester assistant chief constable – when he first pulled on the force's uniform on 23 July, 1984.

After 15 years working in south Manchester, including eight as a traffic officer, he established a formidable reputation for catching criminals. Detective Chief Superintendent Bernard Postles, a former colleague, said: "He was what is known in police circles as a prolific thief taker, whose tenacity is legendary in Greater Manchester Special Branch."

But the formidable crime-fighter was, by every available account, a gentle father and spiritual counsellor.

He preached at the Baptist Church in Poynton, Cheshire, where he lived with his wife, Lesley, and their three children, a 15-year-old son and daughters aged 14 and 12.

The church's senior preacher, the Rev Rob White, said: "He was a brilliant father and a brilliant husband, a great member of the church." He added that there was no incongruity between DC Oake's police and church roles. "He combined toughness and tenderness – a rare combination of qualities."

DC Oake's father, Robin, who was also chief constable of the Isle of Man in a career spanning 30 years, recalled with pride how his son had tackled and arrested two armed robbers on his last day before joining the Special Branch.

"He loved the job. He was a quiet and modest man, though to hear him in the pulpit you would think he was a different person," said DC Oake.

Of his son's killer, he said: "I'm trying hard to forgive him, as I am sure Steve would. I am sure he will find solace from God in some way, as Steve and I did. I don't want any recrimination against him at all."