THE so-called “plebgate” affair gained momentum last night after two arrests were made in as many days and the Prime Minister demanded “proper answers” from the investigation.
A 46-year-old Metropolitan Police officer became the fourth to be arrested under the inquiry when she was held yesterday over alleged leaks to the media concerning the row that triggered former chief whip Andrew Mitchell’s resignation.
A 46-year-old male colleague in the Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG) was bailed and suspended after he was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of the same offence – misconduct in a public office.
As Operation Alice picked up pace, David Cameron repeated his desire for a “thorough” investigation into the Downing Street altercation, during which it was claimed Mr Mitchell labelled serving officers “plebs”.
Speaking in Liberia, where he is attending a UN meeting on international development, Mr Cameron said: “There is an ongoing police investigation, so it wouldn’t be right for me to comment. All I would say is it is very important that this investigation is thoroughly carried out and proper answers are delivered.”
The plebgate row ignited when Mr Mitchell was accused of a heated rant against officers as he left Downing Street on 19 September.
Pressure intensified after a newspaper published a police log of the incident, which claimed he called officers “plebs” and swore at them repeatedly. He insisted he did not use the words attributed to him, and later said he was the victim of a deliberate attempt to “toxify” the Tories and ruin his career.
An e-mail from a civilian witness backing up the police account of events has also since been called into question.
Some 30 detectives have taken statements from all 800 officers in the DPG, which is tasked with protecting government officials. By 16 January, Operation Alice, which has around 30 detectives working on it, had cost £82,500 since it was set up in December.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan- How last month told the Home Affairs Select Committee he would “pursue the evidence”.
He told the MPs that part of the investigation was to identify the source of the leaked police log, which recounted the altercation with Mr Mitchell.
The Commissioner said a file of evidence on the case could be handed to prosecutors by the end of January, but Scotland Yard said on Thursday that because of “ongoing developments” an interim report had yet to be submitted.
Two other men have been arrested so far, both of whom have been released on bail until February.