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Memorial to fallen police officers to be unveiled by Prince Charles

Written by on 27/07/2021

A memorial to heroic police officers who have died on duty is to be unveiled by the Prince of Wales today.

The simple but stunning 12-metre high structure will pay tribute to the sacrifices made by men and women whose job is to protect the public.

VIPs such as Boris Johnson and Priti Patel will attend the unveiling of the memorial
Image: VIPs such as Boris Johnson and Priti Patel will attend the unveiling of the memorial

Since the Bow Street Runners became the face of modern policing in 1749 nearly 5,000 officers and staff have died doing their job, 1,500 of them killed in violent acts.

One of them was Nina MacKay, 25, stabbed as she led colleagues into an east London flat to arrest a man for a breach of his bail conditions in 1997.

Nina MacKay was knifed to death in east London in 1997 Pic: PoliceMemorialUK
Image: Nina MacKay was knifed to death in east London in 1997 Pic: PoliceMemorialUK

The grubby scene of her violent death is 50 miles and a world away from the beautiful garden of her parents’ Essex home, where her father, retired chief superintendent Sid MacKay, reflected on the many years it has taken to fund the £4m memorial.

Over seven years, an original government £1m donation was followed by money from private companies, the police service, the public and anonymous benefactors.

Mr MacKay, who helped raise funds, said: “The police are seen by central government and the public as the less glamorous element in the country’s security compared with the military which is readily recognised for the work they do.

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Sid Mackay, who himself is a former chief superintendent, lost his daughter Nina Mackay in 1997
Image: Sid Mackay, who himself is a former chief superintendent, lost his daughter Nina Mackay in 1997

“The toll on police officers is just as grim and always has been. The names of individual officers who die do register at the time, but as time passes they get forgotten and become a cumulative statistic.

“It is essential that there is a memorial to the police service where families and their relatives and the general public can go and contemplate the sacrifices that are made.”

Mr MacKay added: “These days we are all too ready to find the failings in policing and less able to appreciate the service provided by officers on a daily basis. I think Nina would be very proud to know that at long last the memorial has been established.”

Gillian Wombwell's husband, David, was killed in 1966
Image: Gillian Wombwell’s husband, David, was killed in 1966

The brass memorial stands in an area surrounded by wildflowers and trees among 400 others in the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

The families of fallen officers will be joined for the dedication ceremony by VIPs including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Priti Patel and police officers from all UK forces.

Harry Roberts Image From 1966
Image: Police killer Harry Roberts’ 1966 mugshot. He was released from prison on licence in 2014

Gillian Wombwell, whose detective husband David was one of three officers shot dead in West London by Harry Roberts and his accomplices in the summer of 1966, had a preview of the towering memorial which is dotted with leaf-shaped holes.

She said: “It is just magnificent and epitomises what the police stand for. It’s big and strong with no frills or trimmings.

“And when the sunlight shines through the leaf holes, it throws patterns on the ground that look like teardrops which is very apt.”

Geoffrey Fox (L), David Wombwell (C) and Christopher Head (R) were shot dead by harry Roberts in 1966 Pic: PoliceMemorialUK
Image: Geoffrey Fox (L), David Wombwell (C) and Christopher Head (R) were shot dead by Harry Roberts and his accomplices in 1966 Pic: PoliceMemorialUK

David Wombwell, 25, was killed with colleagues PC Geoffrey Fox and Detective Sgt Christopher Head after they approached Roberts and two other men sitting in a car near Wormwood Scrubs prison.

His widow said: “I’m not sure many police officers are really aware of the risks. I wasn’t and in 1966 London wasn’t a particularly safe place. It didn’t occur to me that David would ever be harmed.

“I don’t think David would have walked across to that car and said ‘excuse me, what are you doing here’ if he thought at any time that he was going to get shot.”

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The Police Arboretum Memorial Trust said fundraising will continue to provide digital memorial and education facilities for students.

Former Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde, chair of the Trust, said: “As a nation, we owe all those who have laid down their lives to keep us safe and protect us from harm a huge debt of gratitude. This memorial will ensure that the memory of those officers and staff who have died lives on in perpetuity.”

 Sky News

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