The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

Yes, certainly I can. Well, historically, around about that time, the early part of the -- that decade, there were a whole series of robberies in and around the Heathrow Airport area for very high-value cargoes. They were mostly actually computer chips that were arriving in the freight holds of airliners from the Far East and they were being moved on to what is sometimes referred to as Britain's silicon valley, down the Thames Valley in Reading and Slough and places like that. It became so damaging to the industry that Scotland Yard were almost obliged to set up a special operation to deal with this specific problem, and it was known as Operation Grafton.

It was an operation that I was quite interested in, very interested in, I suppose, and I made some enquiries about it and wrote a couple of stories about it.

I can't remember the exact circumstance, but at some point the previous year in 2003 I had been talking to a couple of officers who were involved in this operation and they said, "We've actually -- we think we're actually on the cusp of making some big inroads into this, we think we've identified people who are involved and you might be seeing some results quite soon."

I, without much hope of success really, I think, I sort of said, well -- because there's been a history of police allowing some journalists in certain circumstances out on certain operations, I said would it be possible if I was to, in a very -- you know, adhering to strict controls and guidelines, if I could be allowed some kind of access to this operation.

In short, I think one of these officers said, "Why don't you make a formal approach through the usual channels and see what the reaction would be?" So I approached the head of the Press Bureau then, who was a man -- he's retired now -- called Robert Cox, Bob Cox, who worked for Dick Fedorcio. He was not Dick's deputy, but he was the head of the Press Bureau.

To cut a long story short, I was able to meet with higher chains of command, we had a number of conversations about this and a sort of in-principle agreement was worked out that if we were prepared to adhere to certain -- you know, a lot of guidelines, we could be allowed along to have some access to such an operation.

In the event, it started with one operation, and I think between October and Christmas 2003, I think I was probably with a police team on ten to a dozen different occasions near Heathrow, and I had made a point, incidentally, of saying to them, "I do not want to know the details of this job until it is completed"; in other words I was very conscious of the fact I did not want at any point to be -- if anything went wrong, anybody to say, "You were the leak on this", or "The problem was caused by you". All I said, in the most general terms, "I don't need to know the who, the what, the why. If things unfold in front of me, that will be fine, but I don't want to know in advance exactly what's going on." All I knew was that they were hoping to ambush some robbers in the commission of a crime near Heathrow, and in the event it went into the new year 2004 and that robbery plan -- or the police ambush plan had to be stood down.

But we kept the engagement going and essentially they said, "Look, you've abided by the conditions that we put on this, we think it's a workable plan and if another suitable job comes online, we will consider allowing you access to it." I was happy to go along with that, and in fact then in May 2004, at very short notice, I think on a Sunday, I was called at home by an officer who said, "If you can get to a particular location at 4 o'clock tomorrow morning, I think you might find it interesting", and that morning I was accompanied by two police officers and we drove in the direction of Heathrow Airport, and once again I deliberately did not ask what the target was or any details of the job until much later on in the morning, and about two hours before it all came to fruition, one of the officers said, "Look, in broad terms there are two very valuable cargoes arriving at the airport this morning from different locations around Europe, one is gold bullion, one is cash, and we think, because of a various combination of circumstances, that a team of armed robbers may attempt to steal this load this morning."

I still didn't know where the location was going to be, I had none of the details at all, and at about 10 o'clock on that morning we were actually thinking it probably wasn't going to go ahead, and I said to one of the officers, "If this doesn't take place today, when might it come back online?" and he said to me, "I think it may not come back online again ever or it might come back in a couple of weeks' time", and I said nothing ventured, nothing gained, and more or less at that moment he received a phone call that essentially said, "They're here", and we were probably a mile or two back from the warehouse at Heathrow that was under attack.

When we got there the robbers had already been detained by the police, and the officers that were chaperoning me said, "Wait in the car until we come back", they went into the warehouse, they came back and said, "The situation is under control now, you can come in". I was accompanied by a photographer, by the way. That was all part of the agreement.

I went in and there were a number of men who were still masked actually handcuffed in various locations around the warehouse, and my photographer was given free access to take various photographs. I know this has been referred to before by one of your previous witnesses. It was very successful from our point of view. The police were very pleased, I think. I think they were pleased because I think it showcased the fact that they were on top of serious crime problems so, yes, it was mutually beneficial, I guess, in that respect.

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