In the Media

Undercover anti-terror operation wins national award

PUBLISHED October 4, 2012

Detectives from the North West Counter Terrorism Unit deployed the covert team to infiltrate a gang of extremists who were "preying" on locals with mental health problems in order to make them carry out attacks on British troops in Afghanistan.

In the first deployment of undercover tactics against suspected Muslim terrorists, two officers had to change their appearances, convert to Islam and live in deprived conditions for a whole year as they gathered evidence of the plot.

After arrests were made, those on Operation Munda then had to transcribe 600 hours of secret recordings of their meetings with the recruiters as well as trawling through 5,000 of the Islamists' CDs and DVDs, and 50,000 books and leaflets, in order to support a prosecution.

They also had the difficult tasks of maintaining community relations in the predominately Muslim area where the cell was based, and making sure the undercover officers' cover wasn't blown.

Their painstaking work led to three men being jailed for offences including preparation of acts of terrorism, with ringleader Munir Farooqi given four life sentences and jailed for a minimum of nine years.

The operation was praised as "exceptional" by a judge and even hailed by the SAS for protecting the lives of service personnel overseas, following the successful trial last year.

And on Wednesday the team, led by DCI Julian Richardson of Greater Manchester Police, was awarded the Detective Investigation of the Year prize by the National Police Federation Detective Forum.

They were presented with the award during a ceremony, supported by The Daily Telegraph, held at the Celtic Manor resort in Wales.

Steve Williams, chairman elect of the Police Federation and chairman of the detective forum, told the audience: "With none of the usual evidence available in other crimes, detectives looked at ways to gather intelligence and material to prove what they suspected to be Islamic extremism.

"This resulted in a year-long deployment of two undercover officers who were required to dramatically change their appearance and immerse themselves in the process of radicalisation.

"Throughout the investigation the team illustrated not just their ability as detectives but also exceptional levels of partnership working.

"It is without question that the skills and experience of DCI Richardson and the Operation Munda team of detectives resulted in the conviction of three men for the most serious of terrorist offences."

Another officer from Greater Manchester Police, Marie Palak, won the Student Detective Award after scoring an "incredible" 97 per cent in her detective exams.

DC Catherine Easton from Northumbria Police won the Services to Detectives award for her "tireless work and commitment" on investigations into rape and sexual assault.

A special recognition award was given to Jon Murphy, the Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, who rose through the ranks as a detective.