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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 September 2005, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Top officer lost job before death
Commodore David White
Commodore David White drowned in a swimming pool in January
A top Navy officer who faced child porn allegations was stripped of his command a day before being found drowned in his swimming pool, an inquest has heard.

The brother of Royal Navy Commodore David White, 50, said he was "in complete despair" after losing his job as head of British forces in Gibraltar.

The next day he took a cocktail of drink and drugs and was found dead.

Mr White was being investigated as part of the Operation Ore child porn inquiry but had not been arrested or charged.

The investigation into Mr White, who was appointed in May 2004, began in December last year when the hard-disk of a computer at military headquarters was seized, the inquest was told.

I think it was a catatonic shock from the time of that phone call to the time of his death. I think he was in complete despair
Rupert White, Mr White's brother

Internet access to the computer was never restored before Mr White was told on January 7 that he was being returned to the UK pending an investigation by Ministry of Defence police.

His brother Rupert told the inquest in Gibraltar: "I think he would have been completely amazed that that decision had been made at that time.

"I think he would have been completely stopped dead in his tracks.

"I think it was a catatonic shock from the time of that phone call to the time of his death. I think he was in complete despair."

'Weary and distracted'

On the afternoon of January 8, Mr White was found in bed by his deputy, Chief of Staff Colonel Tom Camp, who described him as "weary and distracted".

After talking to him for 10 minutes, Colonel Camp left his colleague to get dressed.

But 90 minutes later, Mr White was found dead in the swimming pool at his residence by his assistant Squadron Leader Nigel Forshaw.

Home Office pathologist Dr Peter Jerreat found 61 micrograms per 100 millilitres of alcohol in Mr White's blood - nearly twice the UK drink-drive limit.

He also found 303 micrograms per litre of the sedative zoplicon, which he described as "higher than normal for therapeutic use".

'Impaired judgment'

"This could have caused impaired co-ordination and impaired judgment," Dr Jerreat told the inquest.

Bruising on Mr White's forehead and right-side of his body could also suggest he had fallen more than once.

He concluded that Mr White's death was "clearly due to drowning". In January, the Royal Gibraltar Police said "foul play" was not suspected.

An Old Etonian, Mr White joined the Royal Navy in 1973 and his tours of duty included spells in the south Atlantic during the Falklands War.

MoD decision

The MoD said it was its policy not to comment on investigations which had not led to an arrest.

But a spokeswoman said the decision to remove Mr White from his post was "not taken lightly".

"He was in a high-profile post with command responsibilities and had become the subject of an investigation by the Ministry of Defence police.

"Because this was becoming known within the Royal Navy, and there was a risk of it becoming publicly known, it was decided to return him to the UK.

"That decision was made only after full consideration had been given to what would be best for Commodore White, the Royal Navy and the command."

She added: "This has been a very sad loss of life and our thoughts and sympathy are with his friends and family."

More than 7,000 individuals have been investigated by Operation Ore, which was launched in May 2002, leading to 3,500 arrests and 1,230 convictions.

The inquest continues.


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