BLAIR'S GATEKEEPER HELD OVER HONOURS
Kirsty Walker, Stephen Wright and Jane
Daily Mail-Saturday, January 29,
ONE of Tony Blair's closest aides was
arrested yesterday on suspicion of trying to cover up the sale of
honours to Labour party donors.
Ruth Turner, number two in the Prime
Minister's inner circle, was questioned for several hours by police who
suspect she tried to conceal 'smoking gun ' evidence.
Her arrest on suspicion of perverting
the course of justice caused panic at Downing Street and fuelled
speculation that charges that charges will be brought within the next
Mr Blair immediately spoke up in her
defence, insisting she is a women of 'the highest integrity'.
Sources close to the inquiry confirmed
that the focus of the inquiry had shifted to the whereabouts of key
e-mails or memos, which it is alleged, have been deleted or destroyed.
Opposition MPs said the water is 'now
lapping around Tony Blair's neck' and Labour backbenchers were preparing
to step up calls on Mr Blair to resign before further damage is
Insiders revealed that the Prime
Minister and his close aides were stunned by Miss Turner's arrest.
The 36-year-old director of government
relations was arrested by four officers at her London home at 6.30am. It
is believed she was still in bed when they banged the door.
She was given time to dress before
being taken to an undeclosed police station for questioning.
She is believed to have been subjected
to lengthy interrogation by Detective Superintendent Graham McNaulty,
the officer who also quizzed the Prime Minister last month.
The interview was tape-recorded, Miss
Turner was fingerprinted and had DNA taken. One of the purposes of this
is to help determine whether she touched key documents. It is understood
her home was searched and a number of items were taken away.
Lord levy, Labour's chief fund-raiser,
is also expected to be rearrested before police send a file on the
investigation to the Crown Prosecution Service.
The news that they were probing
a possible cover-up drew parallels with the WATERGATE scandal which led
to the resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon.
Sources have told the Mail that police
have uncovered a mass of evidence which may well have 'totally
justified' the decision to investigation, code named
However, It is likely to be mid-summer
before a decision on whether to bring criminal charges is made.
In a statement last night, Miss Turner
firmly denied any wrongdoing, she said:
'I have been completely open with the
police throughout and will continue to co-operate with them fully. I
absolutely refute any allegations of wrongdoing of any nature
Mr Blair who spent yesterday at
Chequers, added: Ruth is a person of the highest integrity for whom I
have great regard and I continue to have complete confidence in her.'
The charge of perverting the course of
justice, which carries a maximum life sentence, can be brought if a
person tries to interfere with an investigation that might bring
As Mr Blair's 'gatekeeper' Miss Turner
holds a key position in Number 10, reporting direct to chief of staff
Jonathan Powell and playing a role in controlling access to the PM.
She became the fourth person -and the
first salaried Government official -to be arrested in the inquiry, after
lord Levy, major Labour donor Sir Christopher Evans and headmaster des
She was previously interviewed under
caution in September last year. it was reported this was connected to
the e.mails uncovered during a search of Downing Street files.
Police questions then reportedly
centred on e.mails which appeared to have been sent to and from Miss
Turner's work station, discussing which lenders might be placed on a
list of nominees for peerages.
In June last year, she faced charges
that she and another senior Downing Street adviser John McTeran had
secured a signature from Labour chairman Ian McCartney, as he lay
seriously ill in his hospital bed, to sign off the peerages. She denied
She personally telephoned
lenders in October 2005 to tell them they were on the Prime Minister's
peerages nomination list, including Sir Gulam Noon and Sir David Garrard.
The police inquiry began in March 2006
after the House of Lords rejected nominations for four millionaire
backers -Chal Patal, Sir Gulam, Sir David and Barry Townsley - whose
names were put forward by the Prime Minister for peerages.
Angus MacNeil, the Scottish national
Party MP whose complaints helped trigger the inquiry, said:
'Water is now lapping around Blair's
Labour party sources said last night:
To have a senior aide to Tony Blair
facing possible charges for perverting the course of justice will cause
deep concern on the Labour backbenchers.'
Detectives have ruled out the
possibility of reinterviewing Mr Blair.
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