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 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 11:25 GMT
Blair's shock at policeman's death
Tony Blair
The prime minister led tributes to the officer
Tony Blair has said he is "shocked and saddened" at the murder of a police officer during a counter-terrorism operation in Manchester.

My thoughts are with all of those injured and my deepest condolences go out to the families of the officer who was killed

David Blunkett
Dc Stephen Oake, 40, was believed to have been stabbed during the raid, linked to the recent find of deadly poison ricin in London.

Downing Street said Mr Blair had met the father-of-three more than once when he acted as one of his protection officers on visits to Manchester.

In a statement, the prime minister said: "It is an appalling tragedy and wicked in the extreme.

"The thoughts of everyone must be with his family and his colleagues.

"His death and the injuries to the other officers involved in this incident underline the dangers that our police and security forces face in these times."

Mr Blair is due to speak to Michael Todd, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, on Wednesday morning.

The prime minister's official spokesman said it was too early to question the way police had handled the raid.

The spokesman added: "If there are any operational lessons to be learned then, as the chief constable has said, he will take that forward in due course."

Bravery

Home Secretary David Blunkett also expressed shock at the events in Manchester.

"My thoughts are with all of those injured and my deepest condolences go out to the families of the officer who was killed," he said.

"I commend the bravery and commitment of these police officers in defending us not only against dangerous criminals but against those threatening the safety of our country."

The home secretary is expected to make a Commons statement about the murder later on Wednesday.

For the Conservatives, Oliver Letwin said the whole would mourn the murder of a "hero who died defending us from terrorism".

"The whole nation will mourn the murder of a hero who died defending us from terrorism.

'Front line'

"I profoundly hope that all the Police Officers injured will have a full and speedy recovery.

Oliver Letwin
Mr Letwin hailed the officer as a hero
"This episode illustrates all too clearly the nature of the danger with which we are faced."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said the tragedy was a stark reminder of the danger faced "by all those on the front line of the campaign against terrorism".

"Our support and solidarity goes to the officers of Greater Manchester," said Mr Hughes.

"But we must not be deflected from the pursuit of those who try by violence to undermine democracy.

"The best response is sorrow and anger but followed by determination and renewed commitment to the rule of law."


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14 Jan 03 | England

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