DETECTIVES believe that they know the identities of the IRA men who planted the Bishopsgate bomb a year ago but lack the evidence to arrest and charge them, the new Commissioner of the City of London Police suggested yesterday.
William Taylor, 47, a former assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard in charge of anti-terrorist operations, is taking over the 877- strong force, amid fears that, after the current ceasefire, the IRA may try a 'spectacular' in the City to mark both his arrival and the anniversary of the Bishopsgate bomb. That bomb came almost a year after the St Mary Axe bomb, designed to mark the Conservative general election victory.
At a press conference to mark his first day in office, Mr Taylor made it clear that he saw no reason to relax the intensive security measures introduced in the past year, which were likely to continue 'for some time'. They include random armed road blocks, the permanent closure of some roads, checkpoints restricting non-essential vehicle access and an increase in surveillance cameras.
Asked if the police were any closer to catching the two men believed responsible - who were spotted on a security camera running away from the Bishopsgate lorry bomb - Mr Taylor added: 'Sometimes police have a good idea of who might be responsible but they are not always able to bring them to court. Knowing or believing who committed a crime is different from the evidential requirements to bring someone to justice.' It is possible that the men are known to be in the Irish Republic and that detectives are wary of seeking extradition because of past controversies.
He said that although the number of crimes committed in the City was small, one side-effect of the increased police presence and public vigilance was a 27 per cent fall in crime over the past two years.
Mr Taylor, who was deputy commissioner of the City force between 1985 and 1989, firmly rejected suggestions that it ought to be combined with the 28,000-strong Metropolitan Police. He said it made good sense to have a force for a unique area: 'The force has a tremendous sense of achievement, which will continue and flourish in the future.'
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