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Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 11:19 GMT
Fatal raid criticised over intelligence
Flowers for Stephen Oake
Many flowers have been laid for Stephen Oake
The police raid in Manchester in which an officer was stabbed to death has been criticised by a police body for having poor intelligence.

Special Branch officer Stephen Oake, 40, died and four other officers were hurt in the raid on a flat in Crumpsall in the north of the city, on Tuesday evening.

A 32-year-old Algerian man was arrested in north Manchester on Wednesday night under the Terrorism Act 2000, it has emerged.

Greater Manchester Police said the arrest - the fourth in the city since Tuesday - was not directly linked to the ricin discovery in London, but the man had been actively sought by Special Branch officers.

Steve was driven by his desire to serve the community and protect the public

Lesley Oake
The news came as police were given extra time - until Friday morning - to question the man suspected of murdering Mr Oake.

Mr Oake's widow, who is due to visit the scene of her husband's death on Thursday and lay flowers, has spoken of her "total devastation" at his death.

Officers had been looking for a failed asylum seeker who was on the run from the authorities, and were unprepared to find three men in the flat.

Their intelligence about what they were going into should have been better, said Superintendent Rick Naylor, who is vice president of the Police Superintendents Association.

Risk assessment

Mr Naylor told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that when it became clear there were three men and they could be involved in terrorist activities, there should have been a faster reappraisal of the operation.

"When the ante was upped when the door was put in and they found what they were dealing with, there needed to be some new risk assessment," he said.

Three men, all in their 20s and of North African origin, were arrested under anti-terrorism legislation.

The stabbings came as the men were being put in special suits to preserve forensic evidence, but there has been criticism of the failure to handcuff the men more than an hour after they were arrested.

An internal police inquiry will also look into whether officers should have worn body armour.

Asylum concerns

Lesley Oake, 40, of Poynton, Cheshire, said: "I cannot begin to explain how our family is feeling at this terrible time.

"Steve was the most wonderful father to our three children and a fantastic husband to me.

"He was also the most dedicated policeman, who was driven by his desire to serve the community and protect the public."

The presence of a failed asylum seeker in the flat brought criticism from opposition MPs of the government over its immigration enforcement policy.

Home Secretary David Blunkett said the man, who is thought to be Algerian, had been in the country "on and off for about four years".

Mr Blunkett said he "wasn't let go, wasn't forgotten about, was tracked by the security services to the point where we were about to arrest and deal with him".

'Fanatics'

But shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said the incident proved Britain was struggling to cope with the terrorist threat.

The operation began when the home secretary ordered two men to be held, before being deported, under post-11 September terror legislation.

Officer suits up
Officers in protective gear searched the house

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.

Tony Blair said the officer's death should "redouble our determination to tackle terrorism in all its forms".

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

No chemical substance has been found so far.

Greater Manchester Police said Special Branch officer Mr Oake had not been wearing a vest because he was meant to be gathering information after the flat had been secured.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Superintendent Rick Naylor
"It is not always the case that suspects are handcuffed"
The BBC's Jane Warr
"The Greater Manchester Police Force is coming under increasing pressure"
The BBC's Mark D'Arcy
"MPs of all parties were united in their horror at the killing of DC Oake"

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