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Questions over fatal ricin raid

Stephen Oake
Detective Constable Stephen Oake was killed in the raid

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MANCHESTER, England -- An inquiry has been ordered into an anti-terror raid which left a police detective dead, as questions were being raised about what went wrong.

Stephen Oake, 40, a detective constable with Special Branch, was killed when a suspect broke free, grabbed a kitchen knife and began stabbing officers.

Oake was not wearing body armour, none of the police involved in the raid were armed, and the suspect was not handcuffed at any time during the hour-long raid on the Manchester flat, police said.

"Police didn't perceive the situation to be a threat," said CNN's Matthew Chance in Manchester.

"They had done a search and believed they had secured the property. It was only after they had been in there for about an hour that suddenly one of the suspects, who had shown no tendency to violence during the hour, had an outburst, grabbed a knife and stabbed several officers.

"There are a lot of questions to be asked, including whether the officers were appropriately protected. This officer was apparently a plainclothes detective and as such wasn't wearing a stab-proof vest as uniformed officers would," Chance said.

"There is an investigation into exactly what happened. They are looking into what recommendations they may make in the future. They are still trying to ascertain what went wrong."

Michael Todd, chief constable for Greater Manchester, said the inquiry would examine whether Special Branch officers should wear protective gear.

Forensics
Police forensics officers inspect the scene of the stabbing death

"At the moment this is a murder inquiry, but we will be looking into the lessons which can be learned from this," Todd said.

John Stalker, former deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester, said police also should ask why the suspect was not handcuffed, and why he was still in the flat at least an hour after police entered.

"It doesn't surprise me that the Special Branch were not wearing protective gear. The days of Sweeney-style raids are long gone," Stalker said, referring to the anti-robbery Flying Squad, also known by the rhyming slang "Sweeney Todd" and portrayed in the 1970s TV series "The Sweeney."

"Every raid has an element of risk, and the system now is generally to put in protected officers followed by forensic and detectives," Stalker told the UK Press Association.

"So the officers going in later would expect the scene to be preserved and safe."

He said it was "unusual" for suspects not to have been removed from the scene of a raid so long afterwards.

"But this was an anti-terrorist operation and rules can often be a bit different," he said.

Weapons expert Mike Yardley also questioned the tactics involved in Tuesday's fatal incident.

"Special Branch officers would not normally wear body armour. They want to be able to blend into the background," he told PA.

"It's a very British way to go about it -- making yourself vulnerable.

"In this sort of operation you have to take a very different and more cautious approach."

Officers in forensics suits outside the building where the raid occurred
Officers in forensics suits outside the building where the raid occurred

He added: "Knives are of course a greater threat to police officers and indeed to all of us than illicit guns. Far more people are killed with knives than guns.

"Terrorists clearly have a fondness for knives -- for example the situation with al Qaeda hijackers or the culture of knives in Africa."

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Green said that when officers entered the building, the three men in the flat were all "compliant from the outset."

"There was no indication of any violence. They had been in for well over an hour when this man suddenly carried out this attack," Green said.

Chief Constable Todd said: "Officers wearing body armour made the entry as planned, effected the arrest of the three suspects, and then once the scene was secured, the Special Branch officers came in to actually start the evidence and intelligence-gathering phase of the operation.

"During the course of that we had to change tack and it was decided that we were going to conduct a forensic examination and preserve the evidence on the suspects themselves, so we were going to put them in a suit, look for samples on the individuals there and then at the scene," Todd said.

"They were detained and actually being held by officers at the time. So it was then decided that you can't handcuff someone while you are actually conducting that sort of examination.

"One of the individuals was being held by a police officer, a uniformed officer who was protected, and it appears from the debrief that we have done overnight that the suspect managed to break free from the officer, the two of them have then literally, in fighting, gone into the kitchen area, where the suspect has managed to grab hold of a knife," Todd said.

About two dozen unarmed officers were involved in the raid
About two dozen unarmed officers were involved in the raid

"I have to say then the Special Branch officers, including Steve (Oake), very bravely went to assist their colleagues and that's how he has been fatally stabbed."

Commenting on the fact that the Special Branch officers were not wearing body armour, Todd added: "There was no perceived risk."

About two dozen officers were involved in the raid, none of whom were armed, Green said.


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