Duty-free store detective became Heathrow security chief - and she lives with airport bossBy JASON LEWIS
Last updated at 00:02 30 March 2008
The woman in charge of security at Heathrow - Britain's biggest single terrorist target - was a store detective at the airport's duty-free shops just six years ago.
Donna Boote, 37, is now not only in charge of thousands of security staff, but also shares a £1.2million home with Heathrow's managing director Mark Bullock - the man with overall responsibility for last week's disastrous opening of Terminal 5.
Yesterday, the airport's authorities refused to answer questions about the couple's relationship - including whether they are married - or confirm any details of Ms Boote's career path.
Ms Boote, a 37-year-old mother of two, was formerly in the Military Police, which she joined aged 17, and eventually became a sergeant in the Special Investigations Branch.
But she quit the Army in 2000, claiming she was forced to leave after becoming a mother for the second time.
She later successfully sued the Ministry of Defence for sex discrimination.
In 2002, Ms Boote began working at Heathrow, starting out as a store detective in the duty-free area.
"This involved her working undercover on the shop floor, monitoring CCTV cameras and supervising agency staff."
Ms Boote later transferred to the small team helping oversee security of a duty-free bonded warehouse off the airport complex, where her boss was a former military police major.
Yesterday, BAA refused to give a full breakdown of her career path but confirmed that after six years Miss Boote had risen to the post of head of airport security at Heathrow.
The Mail on Sunday understands that she was given the job by Heathrow's former managing director in late 2005.
Her rapid rise surprised other aviation security experts.
Despite having no civilian policing, counter-terrorism or intelligence service experience, she became chief in the face of stiff competition from senior retired Army and police officers who were interviewed for the job.
Ms Boote now has legal responsibility at Heathrow for compliance with the National Aviation Security Programme, which sets strict standards for screening people at airports to prevent hijackings and terrorism.
Her role also includes liaison with the Home Office, senior Government Ministers, the police and MI5.
And last year it was Ms Boote who issued the BAA security notice banning liquids on flights after MI5 exposed an alleged plot to blow up transatlantic jets using explosives disguised as soft drinks.
At the time she said: "BAA has long been a world leader in airport security. We intend to retain that position. Heathrow is working hard to make sure that the airport continues to be secure for our passengers."
Since 2006, Ms Boote has lived with Heathrow managing director Mr Bullock at his newly-built £1.2million home in Ascot, Berkshire.
Some neighbours on the private estate said they married last year.
Mr Bullock, 44, an accountant who previously worked for a large distribution company and electricity suppliers EDF, joined Heathrow in 2004 to oversee the design and building of Terminal 5.
According to his BAA profile, he is accountable for "assuring cost, time, quality and safety" and "directly responsible for finance, commercial and risk management".
He had ultimate responsibility for the new Terminal 5 opening on time and is accountable for its "operational success".
In 2006, he was made managing director of the whole of Heathrow.
Mr Bullock explained his overall approach on the airport's website with the words: "If we are to be successful we need to build a business which provides a predictably good experience for passengers. Not just some days, but 365 days a year.
"This is the hugely important job that all of us who work at the airport have and one I am committed to.
"It is true that we are now operating in a different market due to a number of external factors, such as our change of ownership, the global terror threat and the issue of climate change.
"These things will require us to be more commercial, delivering value for money and great service."
Ms Boote was previously married to fellow Red Cap John Boote but the pair split around the time of her tribunal against the Army.
The hearing was told how her dispute with the military centred on a document she was required to sign, which was a condition of service.
Ms Boote, who had served in Saudi Arabia, Germany and Northern Ireland, said she could not agree to that because it would mean having to put her children into care - and claimed sex discrimination.
After her divorce, she moved out of the couple's £140,000 home in Basingstoke, Hampshire.
Last night Julia Gillam, Heathrow's passenger communications manager, said she was "not going to get into a debate" about Ms Boote's competence and experience.
Ms Gillam said: "I can confirm she is the head of security at Heathrow.
"She is absolutely ultimately responsible and has very competent, very senior staff reporting to her who will manage projects."
The spokeswoman refused to discuss Ms Boote's relationship with Heathrow's managing director.
She added: "Donna was appointed to her current position before Mark Bullock became managing director.
"Both Mark and Donna always keep their professional roles and private lives absolutely separate."