Commander William Hucklesby

 Scotland Yard's former anti-terrorism chief, who investigated the Brighton bombing and helped bring Patrick Magee to justice, has died at the age of 82.

Commander William Hucklesby led the Metropolitan Police's anti-terrorist squad from March 1982 to November 1984, during some of the worst IRA atrocities in Great Britain.

These included two blasts in London's Hyde Park and Regent's Park in July 1982 which left 11 soldiers and seven horses dead; a car bomb attack outside Harrods in December 1983 in which six people died and 91 were injured; and the October 1984 Brighton bombing at the Conservative party conference, which killed five people and injured 34.

During Mr Hucklesby's time at the helm of anti-terrorism, revised IRA methods of operating in small, self-contained units led to fewer arrests than those that followed attacks in the 1970s.

While there were occasional criticisms of police strategy, Mr Hucklesby was almost always able to identify his suspects even if they had fled beyond his reach.

At a press conference following the Brighton bomb, he rebutted claims by unnamed "security sources" that his suggestion the device that blew up the Grand Hotel could have been planted weeks earlier was a case of the police "covering up the inadequacy of their own security".

He pointed out that police sniffer dogs had searched the seaside hotel before the conference to check for explosives but found nothing, which suggested that the bomb may have been wrapped in cellophane.

Mr Hucklesby turned out to be right on both counts.

Investigating officers swiftly narrowed the source of the blast to the bathroom of room 629 and began tracing everyone who had stayed in that room, including IRA volunteer Patrick Magee.

Magee stayed at the Grand Hotel a month before the conference, using the name Roy Walsh, and planted the bomb, wrapped in cling film, under the bath.

The device was fitted with a long-delay timer and detonated at 2.54am on October 12.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was still awake, working on her conference speech, but escaped uninjured.

Magee was given eight life sentences at the Old Bailey in 1986, with a recommendation that he spend at least 35 years in jail.

He was released under the Good Friday Agreement in 1999.

Mr Hucklesby also played a central role in the probes into the attempted assassination of Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Argov by members of a Palestinian splinter group in Mayfair in June 1982; the Libyan embassy siege of April 1984 in which PC Yvonne Fletcher was murdered; and the bombing of the baggage area at Heathrow Terminal 2 which injured 22.

After retiring from the police in December 1986, Mr Hucklesby joined the retail conglomerate Sears as a senior executive with responsibility for group security, and was chairman of the security committee of the Oxford Street Association. He was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal College of Arts, a Freeman of the City of London and a member of the council of the British Foundation for the Study of Terrorism.

Mr Hucklesby is survived by his wife Josephine along with their son and daughter.

Belfast Telegraph