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SACKED; EXCLUSIVE For telling Mirror the truth about our rotting railways.

Byline: GARY JONES

A WHISTLE-blower who exposed the dangerous state of Britain's railways in the Daily Mirror has been sacked.

Former British Transport police superintendent Tony Thompson was axed yesterday from two key posts after going public with shocking photographs he took of crumbling wooden sleepers after the Potters Bar tragedy.

Mr Thompson, 53, was so appalled by the evidence of shoddy rail maintenance that he immediately contacted us.

Last night his former boss Chief Constable Ian Johnston said the action of giving the photographs exposing the rail dangers to the Mirror was "unprofessional".

But Mr Thompson attacked Mr Johnston's decision to force his sacking as "vindictive, mean and petty-minded".

He was barred from taking up an pounds 18,000, six-month Home Office police training post with Centrex at Bramshill, Hants, as well as being thrown off the Police Major Disaster Advisory (PMDA) Team.

Mr Thompson learned of the double blow in a letter to his home in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, yesterday.

But he said he did not regret informing the Daily Mirror of his evidence, adding: "I'd do the same again tomorrow."

"One of my roles at the Paddington, Hatfield, Selby and Potters Bar crashes involved counselling hundreds of bereaved relatives and traumatised survivors. I don't want anyone else to have to endure that experience, which is why it was right to publish those pictures."

Mr Thompson blames Mr Johnston, of the British Transport Police, for his downfall. He secretly taped a conversation in which the chief constable allegedly confirms he had a role in his sacking.

"He admits it was because I released the photograph to the Daily Mirror that pressure was put on Bramshill to stop me working there," said Mr Thompson.

"I was told that because of my actions I wasn't to be allowed near a crash site ever again. I regard Mr Johnston's actions as an abuse of power."

Mr Thompson, who dedicated his life to the police in a 32-year career, is one of four retired officers in the PMDA team yet the only one to have been thrown off. He has served on the squad since 1993.

Made up of experts in body recovery, family liaison, mortuary management and media strategy, it is on standby to attend and advise on disasters in the UK. Mr Thompson's role at Paddington was praised by Prince Charles and his former Chief Constable David Williams.

He served as police commander at the Clapham rail disaster and was at Potters Bar in his PMDA role despite resigning from British Transport Police weeks earlier.

He was also the most senior officer at the Paddington rail disaster and played key roles at Hatfield and Selby.

Chief Supt David Richards, head of the National Crime and Operations Faculty at Bramshill, revealed in a conversation with Mr Thompson that he had spoken with Mr Johnston about his future.

And last night Mr Johnston confirmed he had spoken to Chief Supt Richards about his "concerns" over Mr Thompson giving track photographs to the Daily Mirror.

But he denies putting pressure on Mr Richards to end Mr Thompson's contract.

He said the handing over of the photograph to the Mirror was "totally unacceptable".

He added: "It was unprofessional and a breach of confidence. I can't allow him into places where there is evidence-gathering if he is going to release them (photographs) to commercial organisations."

And a British Transport Police spokesman said: "He took some photographs which he gave to the Daily Mirror. We think that's unprofessional."

CAPTION(S):

EXPOSED: Photos of rail danger in the Mirror
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 26, 2002
Words:591
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