Times : 7/7 bombers could not have acted alone

Friday, May 29, 2009

7/7 bombers could not have acted alone

Commentary: Andy Hayman | April 29, 2009

The acquittals of three men on charges of helping the July 7 suicide bombers leave me with a sense of bitter disappointment. I suspect that feeling is shared by the families of the victims, the survivors and the police investigation team.

These charges would not have been brought unless police and prosecutors were satisfied that there was significant evidence implicating the defendants in the preparation of the 7/7 attacks.

I have no doubt that Mohammad Sidique Khan and the other three bombers had significant assistance from others here and overseas.

There were several sets of fingerprints, other than those of the four dead bombers, in the bomb factory in Leeds. There was extensive telephone contact with other people, here and in Pakistan. In my mind, it is inconceivable that the only people involved in planning these attacks were the four who carried them out.

The end of this trial probably represents the last throw of the dice for the police investigation into 7/7. It is extremely frustrating to reach this milestone knowing that people who aided and abetted the murders of 52 innocent people remain at large. I remain firmly of the view, however, that everything that could possibly be done was done and every lead was pursued.

The scale of the investigation was immense: more than 37,000 exhibits were examined, 4,700 telephones seized, producing more than 90,000 numbers requiring analysis and 24,000 people to be traced, interviewed and eliminated. Officers from Scotland Yard relocated to West Yorkshire to conduct inquiries.

This investigation was conducted by counter-terrorism units that were stretched to their limit and ran alongside inquiries into 11 other high-profile terrorist cases. But at the end of that inquiry the evidence that could be put before the court was circumstantial. Perhaps that is the only evidence there was to be found. A brave choice was made to put it before a jury and let justice take its course.

This was no half-baked police operation. I know that the officers involved had the grief of the bereaved etched on their minds. However, despite their best efforts, the evidence was not convincing enough.

Andy Hayman was Assistant Commissioner Special Operations in the Metropolitan Police 2005-07