Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Operation Ore link in suicide of navy chief

By Stewart Tendler and Dominique Searle in Gibraltar

COMMODORE David White, the senior commander on Gibraltar who was found dead in his swimming pool, may have taken a mixture of alcohol and medicine.

As investigations into the death got under way yesterday, police in London confirmed that Commodore White had been under investigation for allegedly downloading child pornography after being identified by Operation Ore, Britain’s biggest child pornography inquiry.

Commodore White, 50, who held the post of Commander British Forces Gibraltar, is believed to be the 33rd suspect of Operation Ore to kill himself rather than face the disgrace of an investigation and possible prosecution.

He was ordered back to Britain last Friday. The next day he was found in civilian clothes in the pool of Mount Barbary, the palatial home that he was assigned as the senior British officer on the Rock.

Yesterday Operation Ore officers said that police were aware of the sensitivity of the inquiries and risk assessments were made before an arrest. Suspects felt to be potentially suicidal are given help in finding counselling.

As Gibraltarians registered their shock yesterday, police were understood to be investigating suspicions that the old Etonian had taken alcohol and medication before diving into the pool.

One local man who had worked for the Ministry of Defence, said: “You don’t expect this kind of thing to happen in Gibraltar, and least of all in such circles.”

Commodore White. a former officer on board the Royal Yacht Britannia, was expected to serve for another three years in Gibraltar. He was single and lived alone at Mount Barbary.

Operation Ore was begun in 2002 after American investigators uncovered a pay-per-view website run by a couple in Texas enabling customers to download child pornography.

The commodore was one of 7,250 Britons identified after their credit cards were traced to the website. The National Crime Squad in London acts as the central co-ordinator for the operation, passing suspects’ names and addresses on for action by local forces. In the case of Commodore White, the details were passed to the MoD police.

So far more than 4,283 homes have been searched and 3,744 arrests made. Suspects range from judges, civil servants, teachers, lawyers and senior surgeons to police officers. Around 1,840 suspects have been charged and 1,451 convicted. Penalties range from a caution to a lengthy prison sentence for possession of the most extreme pornography. Thus far, 493 people have been cautioned and 879 investigations are still under way. Police say that the inquiry has led to the rescue of 109 children from abuse.

Last year Stuart Hyde, Assistant Chief Constable of the West Midlands and spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers on combating internet child abuse, said that the risk of suicide could not deter police from carrying out investigations. He said that officers treated suspects “with dignity and sensitivity” when arrested.

Mr Hyde said that although suspects may suffer distress after their arrest, there may be other factors that prompt them to take their lives. Their decision to download child porn images from the internet in the first place may have been the result of deep-seated relationship or lifestyle problems, for example.

Times Online - Britain - Read more...

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