|Posted by George Freund on July 18, 2011 at 11:25 AM|
'Suicide' police chief: Why didn't they call us earlier ask rescue services?
By ALAN RIMMER and ANDREW CHAPMAN
Last updated at 00:37 30 March 2008
Lonely death: Mike Todd had a half empty bottle of gin and a bottle of champagne with him when his body was found on Snowdon
• Mountain rescue chief says they could have saved top policeman on Snowdon
• Mystery of dark suited 'spooks' waiting at bottom of mountain
• Chinook helicopter appeared above body - but could not land
• 'Champagne was in police chief's rucksack'
The police chief who died on a blizzard-swept mountain might have survived if rescue services had been alerted earlier, according to the expert who masterminded the recovery of his body.
Peter Walker has provided the first detailed account of the hunt on Snowdon for Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Michael Todd.
His claims raise a series of disturbing questions about the death of Mr Todd, who was tipped as a future Scotland Yard Commissioner.
Mr Walker, 52, a veteran of hundreds of rescue operations, alleges that mountain rescue services were not called in to search for the police chief, who had been linked with a number of women, until hours after he was first reported missing.
He also claims that a mysterious group of dark-suited men were seen at the bottom of Mount Snowdon after Mr Todd's body was found. He believes the group, who did not identify themselves, were from the Security Services.
Mr Walker also reveals that a Chinook helicopter attempted to land close to where Mr Todd's body was found - an apparent breach of normal rescue procedure. And he says that a bottle of champagne was found in Mr Todd's rucksack.
Inquiries suggest that officers from Greater Manchester Police were also involved in the hunt for the missing chief constable.
Mr Walker, a co-ordinator at Ogwen and Llanberis Mountain Rescue team, said: "The fact is we were called in too late. Normal mountain rescue procedures were not followed. If we had been alerted earlier I believe we might have saved his life."
Concern for the father of three's safety was reportedly raised during the afternoon of Monday, March 10 when Mr Todd is said to have rung and sent text messages to his close friends and family. Among those alerted was Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Ian Blair, who was contacted by a female officer who had received a message from Mr Todd.
Initially the hunt - based upon mobile phone tracking - focused on an area close to the Menai Straits, ten miles from where Mr Todd actually was.
Mr Walker said: "I have been told that when Mr Todd went missing, Greater Manchester Police decided they could find him through his mobile phone signals. I heard quite a large contingent was sent up. I don't know when North Wales Police were brought in.
"But I understand flawed information was given which sent them out to the coast near Port Dinorwic."
It was, said Mr Walker, "well after midnight" when the mountain rescue team was brought in, and at the insistence of the police that was a very small team.
"They used only three men and a dog, which is totally against normal practice," he said. "Thirty-six people and all the dogs are normally called out to any incident. The three men have been sworn to secrecy by police."
In pitch darkness, and with a storm brewing, the search proved to be a hopeless task and was eventually called off until daybreak on Tuesday.
Later that morning a pair of hikers found a rucksack containing personal items linked to Mr Todd, 300ft from the summit of Snowdon in a spot known as Bwlch Glas.
They made a 999 call to North Wales Police and it was that which led to the hunt being switched to Snowdon at 1pm.
Mr Walker was sent to co-ordinate the 36-man search and was dispatched to a small mountain rescue centre, where a helicopter was due to arrive with the two hikers who had found the rucksack.
"I knew then that something out of the ordinary was happening," said Mr Walker. "We don't normally send helicopters to pick up witnesses. I knew then that whoever was missing must be a VIP. There were police everywhere.
"After the couple were dropped off, a local police officer and a member of our team flew back up the mountain in the helicopter to Bwlch Glas where the rucksack had been found. They found Mr Todd's body almost immediately.
"Mr Todd was found face-down covered in snow. A half-empty bottle of gin was found by his side. His winter jacket was also found discarded in the snow a few yards away.
"Someone told me that they also found a bottle of champagne in Mr Todd's rucksack, a strange thing to take up a mountain. I don't know whether it was full or empty."
Mr Walker added: "I picked up the two hikers in my Land Rover. They were a youngish man and woman and they had just been dropped off by the helicopter and were bemused by all the activity.
"I took them to a mountain rescue station a couple of hundred yards away where they were questioned about where they had found the rucksack. But before long they were whisked away by a squad of police. I don't know where they went to, but I did know the young woman was from Brighton."
The wife: Carolyn Todd's husband has been linked with six other women
Mr Walker then told how he started ferrying the rescue team in his Land Rover up a treacherous mountain path to a summer house called Hafoty. It was the furthest the team could reach by road - and they still faced a hazardous hike of two hours to where the body lay.
Mr Walker said: "I stayed at Hafoty to co-ordinate the operation by radio. The rescuers reached the body at about 3pm. By that time the weather was really closing in.
"To make matters worse, a huge Chinook helicopter suddenly appeared and tried to make a landing. It made two attempts, but it was impossible and it soon pulled off. No one had a clue where it came from.
Chief Constable Michael Todd with his mistress of three years Angie Robinson
"Six men at a time were used to carry the stretcher in relays with Mr Todd's body strapped to it down the mountainside.
"It was touch and go, we were operating in failing light at this stage due to the blizzard. Conditions underfoot were treacherous."
The rescue party eventually reached the bottom of Snowdon by 7pm on the Tuesday.
Mr Walker added: "Men in dark suits were swarming all over the place. They were not in uniform. We took it they were spooks, Government agents. They weren't normal plainclothes detectives, and they didn't introduce themselves to us."
The body of Mr Todd - who last year investigated claims that the CIA had used British airports to fly terrorist suspects for torture in other countries but found no evidence to support the allegation - was stretchered into an ambulance and taken away. It was only then, said Mr Walker, that he was told the 'VIP' was the chief constable.
"When I was told who it was it all made sense. We had only been told it was a VIP missing, no more than that. It was typical of the secrecy that has surrounded the whole operation ever since, and explained why we hadn't been called in earlier.
"If we had known who we were looking for from the onset, and been given his vehicle details, I honestly think we could have found him alive."
Later Mr Walker was astonished to learn that Mr Todd's Range Rover had been found outside the mountain rescue expert's own home in Llanberis, parked next to Mr Walker's Land Rover. Mr Todd had left it there before setting off on his fateful journey.
"If I had been told what vehicle he had been in I would have found it just by popping my head out of the door," Mr Walker said.
"If we had been told the night before that a man was missing we would have automatically launched full mountain rescue procedure.
"The first thing we would have done was to look for the vehicle. It is routine to look for a missing person's vehicle. Once we had found that, we would have forced the door, sent in a sniffer dog to pick up the scent and take us directly to where the missing man was."
Since his death Mr Todd, 50, has been linked with at least six women. These include several female police officers, a business chief and a newspaper journalist.
Mr Todd would spend the week in his Manchester city centre flat and return to his wife Carolyn at their family home in Nottingham at weekends.
An independent police inquiry is being held to establish whether Mr Todd's complex personal life affected his duties.
Villagers in Llanberis have claimed that they were questioned by detectives from Greater Manchester Police.
Janice Hughes said she was visited by two plain-clothed officers on the afternoon Mr Todd's body was found.
Scene of Todd's death: Mount Snowdon
She said: "There was all this activity from police around the black Range Rover that was parked opposite. Soon after, it would have been about four or five o'clock, two plain-clothed detectives came to interview me. They showed me their warrant cards and said that they were from Greater Manchester Police.
"They asked me all sorts of questions about the Range Rover, but I don't think I was much help. I told them what time I had seen it, but I never saw who was driving it. The detectives interviewed me for about half an hour.
"A couple of days later North Wales Police also came to interview me and asked me the same questions. They said it was necessary to dot all the i's and cross the t's."
Last night Greater Manchester Police said: "As an inquest is to be held and an investigation by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary is under way, it would be inappropriate for us to comment."
North Wales Police said: "We will not be making any comment at this time. The matter is under investigation and the coroner may wish to respond when he is receipt of the investigation report."
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