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 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 15:16 GMT
Inquiry as terror raid officer killed
A policeman brings flowers to the scene where Detective Constable Stephen Oake died
Police are still searching the flat where Mr Oake died
Police have launched an internal inquiry after an officer not wearing body armour was stabbed to death during a counter-terrorism operation in Manchester.

Father-of-three Stephen Oake, 40, died and four other officers were injured as police searched three men in a flat in Crumpsall, in the north of the city.

The officers had already been with the men - aged 23, 27 and 29 and of North African origin - for more than an hour, and the suspects had not been handcuffed at any stage.

The raid on Tuesday evening followed the discovery of ricin in a flat in London last week, and officers are still checking the Crumpsall flat for the deadly poison.

Mr Oake's father Robin, who also used to be a policeman, said he was praying God would forgive his son's killer.

He paid tribute to his son, speaking of the "forefront work" he carried out as a Special Branch officer.

The scene outside the Crumpsall flat
The utter unpredictability of some of the Islamic suspects being targeted by the police and M15 is a problem

The raid began when Home Secretary David Blunkett ordered two men to be held, before being deported, under post-11 September terror legislation, it has since emerged.

Mr Blunkett told the House of Commons one of the two men was indeed found at the flat, while the second was later detained in London.

Greater Manchester Police said Mr Oake had not been wearing a vest because he was meant to be gathering information.

A total of 24 officers were involved in the raid. The tactical officers who carried out the actual arrest were wearing protective gear, although none were armed.

Chief constable Michael Todd said there had been no "perceived risk" to any of the officers.

The three suspects had not been handcuffed because they were being forensically searched - which involved putting them in a special suit to preserve any evidence on them, he said.

He said one of the suspects broke free, ran into the kitchen area to grab a knife, and attacked the officers.

The Special Branch officers, including Mr Oake, who had arrived to question the suspects went to help, and Mr Oake was fatally stabbed.

Ricin fear

The Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin said the incident proved Britain was struggling to cope with the terrorist threat.

It was also a sign of "chaos" in the immigration services, with people "getting through the asylum system who... intend to pursue terrorist activities."

Mr Blunkett disagreed, saying the raid showed safeguards were already working, although they would be further refined.

"We are on top of those who threaten our lives and livelihoods."

Stephen Oake was a father of three
No chemical substance had been found in the flat so far, Mr Todd said - but officers were still searching the entire three-storey Victorian block early on Wednesday afternoon.

Several emergency services staff had been taken to hospital to be screened for possible ricin contamination, but were later discharged.

Three of the other four officers injured suffered stab wounds, but have also been discharged.

One officer who suffered a broken ankle remains in hospital and is described as "very, very traumatised indeed".

Click here to see a map of the area

Prime Minister Tony Blair - who was protected by Mr Oake whenever he visited Manchester - said the "wicked and appalling" tragedy had made him determined to "redouble" his efforts to fight terrorism.

Mr Oake had been with the Manchester Force for almost 20 years. He had focused on terrorism at the city's airport since 1999, and was known as a "prolific thief taker".

The "thorough, competent and conscientious" officer leaves a wife of 20 years, a son aged 15, and two daughters aged 14 and 12.

Two of the three men were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000, and a third under post-11 September anti-terrorist legislation. They are all being held in Manchester.

Return to the story

  The BBC's Branwen Jeffreys
"Stephen Oake's family have barely begun to take in their loss"
  David Blunkett, UK Home Secretary
"I want to offer our deepest condolences to the family"
  Chief Constable Michael Todd
"We've lost a friend"

Talking PointFORUM
 Terror threat
Are the police equipped? You asked an expert

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15 Jan 03 | Politics
14 Jan 03 | England
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