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Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
US move in security breach inquiry
Castlereagh is the PSNI's Belfast headquarters
Castlereagh is the PSNI's Belfast headquarters
Detectives investigating the theft of intelligence documents from Belfast's police headquarters have travelled to the United States to question a former employee at the station.

Meanwhile, a number of searches were carried out in Belfast on Wednesday in relation to the investigation.

A PSNI spokesman said: "As a result of planned searches of the New Lodge and Edenderry areas, police have seized a number of items.

"These searches are part of ongoing investigations, including inquiries into the Castlereagh break-in," he said.

A Special Branch officer was assaulted and documents taken when three men entered an office inside the Castlereagh complex, in the east of the city, on St Patrick's Day.

The man police want to question in the United States left his job in the kitchens at Castlereagh a number of weeks before the incident there on 17 March.

Security sources said detectives had been liaising with the American authorities.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
John Reid: Established review

The theft occurred in an office which is used as a "link-point" for security force informers and their police handlers.

It is understood the inquiry is still centred on suspicions that the IRA was behind the assault and theft.

Sinn Fein has said republicans played "no part in the raid on Castlereagh".

Days after the breach, it emerged that the office was only moved to that room from another part of the building a week previously because the complex was being refurbished.

Two separate investigations into the incident are taking place - the police's own and an inquiry by former senior civil servant Sir John Chilcot who will report directly to Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid.

Sir John will be assisted by Colin Smith, a former Thames Valley chief constable and a former member of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.

The review will proceed in parallel with the criminal investigation which is being led by Detective Chief Superintendent Phil Wright, the most senior detective in Belfast.

Special Branch deals with intelligence work, some relating to informers, and has an anti-terrorism role in Northern Ireland.

One of the main police centres for the interrogation of terrorist suspects was located at Castlereagh. It closed at the end of 1999.

See also:

20 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Police security breach review heads
20 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Security breach inquiries 'damaging'
20 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Informers: A dangerous assignment
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