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 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 07:45 GMT
Policeman killed during terror raid
Police sealed off the flat where the stabbing occurred
Police are continuing to question three men after an officer was stabbed to death and four others injured during a counter terrorism operation in Manchester.

Officers had been arresting a man in a raid linked to the discovery of the deadly poison ricin in London last week when they were attacked after holding him for an hour.

Father-of-three Stephen Oake, a 40-year-old plain-clothed special branch officer, was stabbed in the chest and died soon afterwards in hospital.

Three suspects, believed to be of North African origin, were arrested at the upper floor flat in Crumpsall, in the north of the city, just before 1800 GMT on Tuesday.

One is being questioned on suspicion of murder.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Home Secretary David Blunkett have condemned the killing.

Stephen Oake was a father of three

Of the four other officers injured, three were stabbed and one suffered a broken ankle. Their condition on Wednesday morning was described as "stable" and "comfortable".

Chief Constable Michael Todd, from Greater Manchester Police, said during the course of the search, one of the suspects had got free and managed to get hold of a kitchen knife.

A "violent struggle" ensued, in which he attacked the officers.

Click here to see a map of the scene.

"The special branch officers who did not have vests on, because they were there to gather intelligence, went to assist.

"Three were stabbed and sadly a 40-year-old father of three has died as a result of that."

Sad tributes

Mr Oake had been with the Greater Manchester Police for almost 20 years.

Since 1999 he had been working with Special Branch, focusing on terrorism at the city's airport, and was known as a "prolific thief taker".

His colleagues described him as a "thorough, competent and conscientious" officer, who always "gave 110%".

Described as a practising Christian, the detective constable leaves a wife, a son aged 15, and two daughters aged 14 and 12.

Mr Todd said the raid was "in connection" with the ricin investigation but stressed there was no suggestion of ricin on the premises.

The operation was led by a number of officers from the tactical aid unit, who were wearing protective equipment, supported by special branch officers.

They had been inside the flat for around an hour when the incident took place.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Green paid tribute to Mr Oake.

"We have lost a colleague and many people have lost a friend," he said.

'Wicked'

One of the three men being held was arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 and two others under post-11 September anti-terrorist legislation.

One of the men is being transferred to a central London police station where he will be interviewed by Metropolitan police anti-terrorist branch officers.

Manchester scene
Forensic experts are at the scene
Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "It is an appalling tragedy and wicked in the extreme."

Home Secretary David Blunkett added: "My thoughts are with all of those injured and my deepest condolences go out to the families of the officer who was killed".

The four officers in hospital are aged between 34 and 42.

The junction of Crumpsall Lane and Middleton Road has been closed to traffic.

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  The BBC's Kevin Bocquet
"The 3 suspects had been under arrest for an hour"
  Chief Constable Michael Todd
"You can not handcuff someone when conducting that sort of examination"

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