Policing the Island and the Great Storm

From Three Decades in Blue

It’s said that ‘a change is as good as a rest’ and after seven (‘loud, brash and busy’) years at Basildon, I felt that I was certainly ready for that ‘change’ – indeed just like with Cat’s and Dog’s (with their many years of life equal to each human year), I felt like my seven years at Basildon, actually ‘clocked up’ many more years, in comparison to being stationed somewhere else!

The ‘experience exchange’ programme (brainchild of Basildon Divisional Commander Alan Gilling) of June of 1986’, gave me the opportunity to see policing life ‘away’ from the ‘madcap intensity’ of Basildon – in my case at Canvey Island (on the south Essex coast). I enjoyed my time there enough to seriously consider asking for a transfer and fortunately for me, I guess I must have made a reasonable enough impression to gain the approval of Canvey’s then Inspector Dick Bloomfield (who always reminded me of American crooner ‘Jack Jones’, white/blonde hair included!).

And so in September 1986, I submitted a request for a transfer to Canvey Island (or ‘The Island’, as those who worked there called it) and by the November of that year, I was ‘back’ (on ‘The Island’).

My earlier visit to Canvey, meant that rather than the move being to totally new territory, it felt more like ‘returning to that which was already familiar’ and I immediately slotted into the role of shift senior ‘PC’ (Police Constable) and the ‘Area Car’ driver – a space/role made available by a PC who had left a few months earlier.

Almost from ‘day one’ of my new posting (third in my police career), I felt as if a certain pressure had been lifted from my shoulders. No longer did I feel under the stress and strain of that form of policing at Basildon (‘job to job to job’). No, I was now in a place where I could ‘think’ a little more about policing and its application and more to the point, I could draw upon all that I had learnt at Basildon and water-it-down (so to speak), from its ‘in your face brashness’, into something more refined, smarter and fine-tuned. However, it was still worth remembering that Basildon for all its ‘stress and strain’, its ‘ageing and changing’ of ‘me’, had given me self-confidence that ‘if I could survive there, I could survive anywhere’ and thankfully that proved to be true.

My new ‘clientele’ (Canvey residents and visitors) were certainly a step-down on the ‘conflict scale’, no longer was I expecting every meeting to result in confrontation and/or ‘a ruck’ – but the good thing about my previous time at Basildon, was that by 1986 and my posting to Canvey, I had the experience to have a reasonable idea if a situation was indeed going to decline into that ‘ruck’ – to be able to either prepare for it or take avoiding action. I therefore found myself in a positive position, with all of those ‘tough’ years behind me at Basildon, was able to draw on that experience at any moment – consciously and sub-consciously.

Canvey Island in terms of policing, was not exactly taking me back to my ‘Sleepy Hollow’, small town, beginnings at Chipping Ongar (a generally compliant and pleasant demographic) and it wasn’t Basildon either (the other extreme) – it was somewhere in between, which with eight years’ service ‘under my belt’ I felt comfortable and confident with.

My ‘new police family’ on Canvey were a mixed bunch of characters – some quite endearing and who it would become a joy to know and work with and others who were  little harder to ‘read’ and who it has to be said, ‘held their cards close to their chests’.

The station Inspectorship saw a change from the ‘outgoing’ Dick Bloomfield (about the same time as my arrival), to the ‘incoming’ Jack Dorling – a seasoned, ex Detective (who had a policing portfolio that included investigating serious crime and being a  Firearms Officer). Jack Dorling spoke ‘tough’ (with a ‘gravel’ voice) and projected a no nonsense image of somebody who was quite capable of clearing  a ‘bar room’ single handed’ if he needed to!

However, Inspector Dorling was not all ‘steely façade’ and in getting to know him better, I found out that this ‘tough looking and hard sounding man’ was quite a sensitive man too like many of us (this being revealed when he recalled listening to the sickening ‘tape recordings’ made by the evil child killers Myra Hindley and Ian Brady of their actions, which Jack told me was played on his initial CID course when training to be a young Detective).

For the last year of my time Canvey, there was a further Inspector (caretaking at Canvey), Tony Belford. He was quite different in manner and style to Jack Dorling and got involved with the charitable ‘Special Day Out’. Which I and Canvey School’s Liaison Officer Bob Sheridan ‘delivered’ for young Canvey boy Cameron Twine in the August of 1989.

My new shift Sergeant Bob Gladstone, was an absolute diamond of a man – totally ‘Old School’ and like a mix of a ‘Sergeant Dixon’ (of Dock Green) and a favourite Uncle. Bob only had to stand there looking at you over the rim of his ‘half-glass’ spectacles and you just knew, something ‘was up’. Bob was a man of few words, but those he did express were worth listening to – as they came from a place of years of experience and wisdom.

Bob Gladstone lived on the island and knew many people. He was also very familiar (although he never vocalised much about it) with how ‘the network’ operated on Canvey (‘the network’ meaning Freemasonry – which we shall look at more closely in chapter 27). I got the impression with Sergeant Gladstone, that the Freemasonry ‘thing’(which was very prevalent on Canvey) was something he was very aware of but at the same time, could do NOTHING about (even if it did ever interfere with police work and the administration of justice).

There was never any panic or uncertainty with Bob, his ‘steady ship’s Captain manner’, meant that his shift (my shift), always felt that even though he was not ‘breathing down your neck all the time’, he was still ‘there’ (‘in the background’) if we needed him. Working with/for Bob Gladstone was a joy and he was a man I would always reflect back upon endearingly. I learnt at some point whilst under his ‘guard’, that Bob had a quarter-share in a small light aircraft and was a licenced pilot – a good example of somebody with a creditable skill/talent, who didn’t go shouting about it from the rooftops – Bob just wasn’t that kind of man.

My other (small) shift members included (in the first instance); PC John Lynch – a ‘solid’ ex bricklayer middle aged chap, never likely to be a senior officer or a ‘ground-breaking’ policeman, but the kind of guy that ‘if the wheel came off’ and it all went a bit ‘Pete Tong’, you couldn’t want for a better bloke standing beside you and/or covering your back! John sadly passed away in his 40’s from serious illness, far too early in his life and a great loss to everybody that knew him.  RIP John Lynch.

The ‘youth’ element of the shift was in the form of PC Liam Osbourne, an amiable, Jovial young lad, who one had the feeling was destined to ‘climb the ladder’, once he had learnt a thing or two about policing and gained his confidence. The female element of the shift was initially provided by an attractive red head called Fran (whose surname escapes me) and who although quite capable and willing to ‘get stuck in’, dear old ‘Uncle’ Bob (Gladstone) always did his best (often covertly and I think to Fran’s frustration), to keep her out of harm’s way (or what Bob perceived as potentially harmful). Bob was totally ‘Old School’ you see in that regard, treating Fran like a surrogate granddaughter.

My shift would see further ‘new-bee’ recruits over the course of my three and a half years there, which included; PC Steve Wood – a tall young guy, whose party piece was a decent voice-impression of Clint Eastwood, PC Paul Eveleigh – a twenty-something who was an accomplished swimmer and who would carve himselfa creditable career in the police rising to be a senior officer, PC Dave Colwell – another twenty something, whose particular probationer ‘Modular Training Programme’, was some kind of ‘pilot’ of a new scheme which a number of forces in England and Wales were trying. Dave would (just like Paul Eveleigh) go on to carve himself a creditable later career in the police, being promoted to Sergeant in 1991 and making a ranking officer after that. Finally there was PC Carl O’Malley – who right from the ‘off’ we knew would never be the most ‘practical’ of policemen, but we ‘heard’ his ‘career path had been earmarked’ for being (potentially) a future high ranking police officer, due to his academic ability – and nothing was allowed to get in the way of that.

There were a few others policemen ‘characters’ at Canvey – who one feels almost deserve chapters on their own! This included PC Bob Cook – the ‘Enquiry Officer’, a man who seemed to have a ‘finger in every pie available’. Bob seemed to ‘know everybody and everything’ of any significance to do with ‘The Island’ and in time I would learn was a Freemason – which helped to make sense of Bob’s manner and his ‘connections’. Bob Cook had a ‘perma-tan’ (of Mediterranean quality), always smelt strongly of men’s cologne and wore strangely ‘feminine’ looking black silk socks.

PC Bob Sheridan was Canvey’s Schools Liaison Officer, somebody well known on ‘The Island’ and who fitted into his busy schedule, being a Schools Governor, occasional ‘D J’ and making miniature furniture for Doll’s Houses. I was to work with Bob in August 1989, in the ‘entertaining of a local five and a half year old lad Cameron Twine, who was suffering Hodgkin’s disease and who we and our Marine Section colleagues (via their launch ‘Vigilant 3’), gave a ‘Special Day Out’[1].

Another larger than life ‘animated’ character at Canvey, was Beat Officer PC Alan Bain, a round, jolly, routinely ‘laughing policeman’, whose ‘laugh’ was unique and Infectious – but always a pleasure to have about the place. I had previously spent time with Alan on ‘Miners’ Strike’ duties  (in 1984/85) and he was like Bob Gladstone, definitely an ‘Old School’ Bobby.

‘Canvey Island’ was a fascinating place in terms of ‘history’ as it had multiple links to periods and people from the past, from the 17th century Dutch Engineer Cornelius Vermuyden (whom one of Canvey’s Schools was named after) and who was involved with the Islands land ‘reclamation (from the sea) and drainage’, to the pub linked to WW I (‘The Admiral Jellicoe’) and the one linked to the ‘1953 East Anglian Floods’ (‘The King Canute’ – named after the military operation ‘Operation Canute’, which used the pub as its ‘forward command post’ – that location being one of the few places on the Island that did not flood. That pub BEFRE it’s renaming had been ‘The Red Cow’.

When I arrived on ‘The Island’, it was during a period of ‘change’ in terms of its landscape, there still being a scattering of small, isolated, rough-cast detached bungalows (left over’s from the 1930’s, 40’s & 50’s) intermixed with large areas (like ‘Sixty Acres’ in the Somnes Avenue area) earmarked for development and house building. Indeed, PC Bob Cook’s ‘networking’ side would sometimes manifest itselfas ‘coming into play in this area’, with the ‘sudden death’ of an elderly person, who may have been a resident of one such isolated old bungalow, which if PC Cook found out about, then soon after it seemed (‘low and behold’), a local Canvey builder would be in contact with the next of kin of the deceased, making an offer on the property. Such was the ‘efficiency’ of the Canvey Island ‘grape vine’.

Just going back to the building/developmental side of Canvey Island, something which I saw multiple examples of and it never failed to fascinate me, was that due to the shortage of available building land, you would often see a large 4/5 bed detached house being built (along such roads as Thorney Bay Road), with a ‘postage stamp’ size garden or sometimes no apparent garden at all. The occupants seemingly willing to sacrifice the space that a garden would have taken up in order to maximise the size of the house on the plot. Sometimes that meant a house was so close to the one ‘next door’ (on the adjoining plot), that there was actually not enough space to get along the side of the property for maintenance!

Canvey not only had those multiple ‘historical’ links with the past, but it had an old fashioned ‘Village’ attitude amongst its population – many of whom had been born and lived all their lives there, just travelling on and off the Island for work. I recall being told once, that ‘as the Island was reclaimed land from the sea, if you only ever drove on Canvey roads, your vehicle didn’t need a road tax’. I researched that andthe statement didn’t appear to be legally correct. However, what it seemed to illustrate to me, was an ‘Island mentality’, that its population were ‘separate’, ‘different’ (perhaps that they even felt a little ‘special’ or ‘privileged’) compared to those of the mainland.

I’m not sure that my time on Canvey (from Nov 1986 to June 1990), taught me anything dramatically ‘new’ in terms of general police work, but it was certainly beneficial for me to be able to work at a more relaxed pace and to ‘put to good use’, that which I had learnt at Basildon, ‘to and for the benefit of others’ (both customers and police colleagues).

As a seven year service police officer (which was how I arrived at Canvey), it wasn’t so much a case of ‘learning’ about policing any more, but more so I think a case of building on top of what I had already learnt –  like that game of ‘hands’ that children play, where one puts a flat hand on top of another friends hand, then somebody else

puts a hand on top of yours and so on and so forth, with the pile ‘forever building’. Thats how I tended to see the nature of police work and police officers knowledge, just building, nothing ever being wasted, just ‘adding to pool of knowledge’.

However, what I do think can and does crop up no matter what length of service an officer has, is that we can and are all the time ‘tested’ in terms of our ability to handle and manage people, our fortitude ‘in determination to get the job done’ and our courage ‘in the face of adversity’.

It is the nature of human beings to constantly throw up ‘variations in behaviour and character’ and it can be that, those unexpected people or moments, which never stops testing police officers – strengths and/or weaknesses in ‘communication and mediation’. In that regard I was just the same as every other policeman no matter what length of service – constantly being tested, constantly re-defining where my own parameters lie – Canvey Island provided simply a different ‘stage’ upon which that was ‘played out’.

For me there were three standalone experiences whilst I was stationed at Canvey, which were either testing and or a learning experience, they being; dealing with the sudden death of an infant (January 1989), the training of a new rookie female police officer WPC Mandy Halfacre (March 1989) and the ‘Great Storm’ (October 1987’). I shall look at all three of these in turn.

First, the unexpected (non-suspicious) sudden death of an infant and for reasons that will be obvious, I shall not dwell on this any longer than is necessary.

Even for a Bobby with seven/eight years’ service, dealing with this kind of incident was going to be tough and to make matters even tougher, at the time, I had two young sons (aged 5yrs & 3yrs). I also had a probationer with me, so I needed to keep one eye on what I was doing and try and keep the other on how my probationer was coping.

It was apparent from an Ambulance crew early on scene, that there were no suspicious circumstances, that the infant’s death came from a tragic event – but naturally occurring. The challenging and abhorrent task left to me/us, was to ‘manage’ the separation of mother and infant (the father being away from the house at work at the time), so that the normal process involving an undertaker could proceed. This was indeed a terrible time for that mother and I felt I was in an impossible position – torn between empathy for the mothers needs and a natural inclination to want to ‘leave her alone to grieve’, yet at the same time I felt a pressure in needing to ‘get the job done and move things along’.

I don’t know the exact length of time I waited, as such moments can seem to drag on forever – with ‘time’ seeming to stretch beyond what physics says it can/should do. However, a point came with the mother still in the deepest of emotional states – crying, sobbing, almost in denial and clinging onto the dead infant – and it was my job to take that infant off that mother.

Looking back now, I can honestly say that don’t know where I got the strength fromto do what needed doing – all I know is that I did my job (somehow). But what I did know was that the situation was NOT just about getting THAT job done, it was about my demonstrating to the probationer with me (who was watching my every move and word used intently) something that he may well have to do, next month, next year, who knows (hopefully NEVER!). I had to show confidence, professionalism, calm, correct decision making and above all that no matter how difficult or traumatic the situation, if it was in our ‘job description’ to sort it out, that is exactly what we had todo, just ‘bite the bullet’ and GET IT DONE.

The infant was removed from the home by the undertakers and it’s likely we remained there, until such time as somebody else came to be with the mother. Once that happened, our job (apart from some ‘post job’ paper work) was complete.

That all happened on an early shift (so we was due to finish about 2pm) and I have no record of being late off – so presumably we went off on time. I recall feeling pretty drained by the whole business and driving home (alone), replaying over and over in my mind, that scene, that mother, that infant and what I did. Repeated questioning

in my mind, did I do it right, could I have played it better, or perhaps was there even any other way?? The lasting image of the infant being taken away by the undertakers has never left me and probably never will – such is the power of going through a traumatic experience (not limited to police officers of course – affecting EVERYBODY).

Neither I nor (as far as I know) the probationer attending that incident with me, had or were offered any counselling  – indeed in 1989’ when that event happened, I think the organisation was still pretty naïve or even ‘blind’, to the effects that such experiences had on Bobbies (short or long term). Possibly to be fair in part, that ignorance may have been caused by officers themselves inherently not wanting to ‘look soft’ or ‘unable to do their jobs’ and so not officially declaring that ANYTHING was ever an issue – just shrugging it off with a simple ‘I’m okay’.

The truth of course was that ALL officers were/are human beings, we have feelings and can/are be affected by that which we see and get involved in and it would be stupid to suggest that such things are not taken home and do not come back to haunt us – because they are and they do.

Second, the ‘tutorship’ of new rookie female police officer WPC Mandy Halfacre.

It was in November 1987, that I completed a two week ‘Tutor Constables Course’, at Headquarters in Chelmsford (Essex), having been asked in the July before, as to whether I was interested in doing so by Inspector Jack Dorling. As with anything in ones police career, if a senior officer asks you ‘how you feel about doing so and so’ or that they ‘would like you to do so and so’, then as there is no greater compliment in general terms, one would be a fool (without a good reason) to not do exactly as they are asking/requesting.

It wasn’t until March 1989, that I was assigned my first (and would be my only) new recruit to tutor, which I felt with around eleven years’ service under my belt, I was in a good position to do. I do not recall having any difficulties with Mandy in terms of her taking direction and/or her thinking for herself and offering her own views and thoughts, on what she was asked to do.

I can’t recall now how long that ‘tutorship’ lasted, but as far as I can recall, it was both pleasant and rewarding (for me), to see somebody ‘new’ benefiting from what I was able to offer, just as I had benefitted from experienced older PC’s at Basildon, when I was a young Bobby.

About a year or so later, my career was destined to take me in another direction away from Canvey Island (across the ‘Creek’ to Benfleet) and so I lost touch a little with Mandy’s career, although I am aware she left in June 1995 (for personal reasons). Had she remained in the service, from what I saw of her briefly at the start of her career, I feel sure she could have done well, possibly even achieved promotion to Sergeant or Inspector, had she set her mind to it. It was in my view Essex Police’s loss, that Mandy Halfacre (later Gooden) left when she did.

Now, lastly to the ‘Great Storm’ of 15th/16th October 1987, which my diary says, ‘was a night of carnage and destruction, high winds of up to 100mph, brought down trees and power lines’.

The Great Storm of 1987 was NOT the first Great Storm southern England had ever experienced – but it was said to have been the most severe, since the Great Storm of 1703 (aka The Defoe Storm[2]). It has etched its way into social history as much for the perceived ‘gaff’ by TV weatherman Michael Fish (who advised his TV audience that there was NOT  a hurricane on the way), as for the widespread destruction and deaths (18 in Britain and 4 in France[3]) that were caused – with one 55yr old Canvey woman being the only victim in South East Essex[4].

The Floods which devastated East Anglia in January 1953, were at their most impactive at high water time, which on the night in question (31st January) was 3.00am.That strangely time was the SAME for when the Great Storm of 1987 reached its full force being felt across southern England – around 3.00am[5].

I can recall going on duty for the night shift on Thursday the 15th and it seemed ‘nothing out of the ordinary’, although retrospective accounts say that there was an ‘unusual warmth to the air’.[6] In trying to think back to that historic night, when I and my ‘B shift’ Canvey buddies began our night shift at 10pm, I don’t think we had any real inkling as to what we were to experience – not that there was much we could do about, it even if we had known.

From memory and using retrospective information as a guide, I don’t think things really began to manifest till after midnight, when the winds started to pick up. I can’t recall at what point I may have done this, but I have a vague recollection of going up to the sea wall and looking out to see what the surrounding ‘sea’ was up to? My recollection is that the water was ‘whipping up’, becoming somewhat ‘choppy’ and ‘noisy’.

I can recall receiving ‘weather updates’ on the police radios (transmissions as far as I can recall, being unaffected), but it was when debris started to ‘fly’ about the place (specifically lose roof tiles), that I was conscious of things becoming more serious. I have a recollection of hearing over the radio, that Ambulances had been ‘grounded’ and were only attending the most needy of calls – due to the ‘flying debris’ and concerns about the crews being struck by flying debris.

Canvey had an inherent infrastructure design weakness then, that was seriously tested that night, with about half of its residents (mainly down the eastern end of the Island, roads off the High Street) receiving their mains power by overhead cables (appearing similar to telephone lines). When the winds began to pick up strength, some of those cables broke – the result being power cables ‘whipping about in streets, sparking ‘blue’ in the darkness – like some frenzied snake having lost its head! All we could do in such instances was to try to cordon off the area and await a power company operative to shut down the power, until such times as repairs could be effected – which was NOT going to be that night.

From memory and published retrospective accounts, I recall the worst point (the most powerful of the storm) being in the early hours, around 4am. I recall radio ‘traffic’ (conversations) about what was going on in other parts of Essex, but from what I can recall it was all ‘pretty much of a muchness’ – high winds, roof damage, trees down, roads blocked and issues with flying debris.

The aftermarth of the Great Storm of 1987

A couple more memories of that night (of those worst early hours) which for me summed up the power of nature and how inadequate I felt to be doing anything about it, was driving around Western Esplanade to where the Amusements were and seeing some kind of kiosk (about 12ft square) just sitting slap bang in the middle of the road– having been blown there from a kerbside position. I also recall driving I think somewhere in the Smallgains area, finding a fence panel in the road, stopping to move it out of harm’s way and upon picking the thing up, the winds taking a hold, whipping it from my grasp and it flying off through the air into the ‘blackness of the night’. I have no idea where that fence panel landed.

One of the ‘saving graces’ of that night of devastation on Canvey, was that it was ‘out of season’ for its caravan sites (Kings being the main one, with Thorney Bay and then a smaller site at Holehaven). So although there ‘was’ some damage caused to caravans, fortunately no persons were harmed (as far as I know) as the majority were unoccupied.

I recall as dawn came and the area began to ‘light up’, the wider extent of the damage became visible for the first time, in terms of trees, walls and fences down – with a large tree or trees blocking the ‘town end’ of Long Road. With people being ‘curious creatures’, I recall a few ‘brave’ (or ‘not so smart’) individuals venturing out to seethe results of the storm for themselves.

The aftermarth of the Great Storm of 1987

I have a long lasting memory of seeing some person attempting to take their dog for a walk, but the winds pulling said dog along, the owner only being able to retain possession of said dog, via its lead! The scene looked like something out of a ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ Mack Sennett silent comedy or Keystone Cops farce – except this was no silent comedy to entertain, this scene was a ‘crazy’ real life scene of Canvey Island residents venturing outside in a storm! The old adage of ‘Curiosity killed the cat, came repeatedly to mind’.

I have no recollection of being late off that morning, things likely having calmed down enough by ‘clocking off time’ (06.00am) for us to hand over to the next oncoming shift and that was good as I was due back on again at 2pm – a feature of the shift pattern I was working at Canvey then, the so-called ‘quick changeover’. My journey home was straight forward and mostly on main roads, so little evidence seen of any harm caused by the storm

When I got to my close in Basildon, something like 06.45am, it was quite light and as I drove in with my house ahead of me, something seemed different, but it didn’t strike me immediately what it was (perhaps I was too tired). However, after only a matter of seconds I realised what it was that was ‘wrong’ – a side wall to a side garden of my house, was not there – and I had a clear view into that whole side garden. The full length of the front brick wall (some 20ft), had all fallen down uniformly and was lying flat on the ground, all in one piece.

There was nothing I could do about the wall at that point in time and in any case it was ‘safe’, just lying on the ground). So I went off to bed, had my sleep and was up at the required time to get back to work for 2pm..

When I returned to Canvey for that afternoon/evening shift on Friday the 16th, it wasthe one and only time in my thirty year police career, that I took a camera to work -anticipating there being ‘historical scenes’ that may be worth capturing. I have little recollection of what the early shift said about the state of things on Canvey in the aftermath of the hurricane and at some point, just went ‘out and about’ on patrol, to see that state of things for myself.

I guess the most dramatic of scenes were those that I saw at Thorney Bay and Kings Caravan sites – where caravans had been thrown about like empty shoeboxes. But what was weird and I shall always remember this, was how you might have a row of caravans (side on to one another), the majority in  a line being unaffected – but one in the line would be ‘upside down’, like somehow ‘selected’ to be whipped-up and turned over. It was like some small ‘wind-vortex’ of immense strength, had just picked up that one odd caravan and flipped them. I saw that phenomenon at both Kings and Thorney Bay.

Another sight at Thorney Bay Caravan site, which I shall never forget in the aftermath of the storm, was a particular caravan with a chopper style bicycle, hanging on one edge of the roof. I was just gobsmacked at the ‘strength of wind’ that would have been necessary to do that – there could be few other more un-aerodynamic shaped things to have flying through the ait than a child’s bicycle!!

There’s little more to say about that ‘historical night’ on Canvey Island, but to recall an account as told to me by shift colleague John Lunch, about what happened to him on his way home, on the morning of the 16th after our night shift was over.

John said he was driving home along Long Road on Canvey about 6.30am, when at some point a cat ran out across the road in front of him, which caused John to brake suddenly almost stopping. The incident causing John to lose a few seconds in his forward progress. He then resumed and continued driving along the road and not too long after the cat incident a tree fell across his vehicles path (about 10ft ahead) into the road from the nearside verge, causing him to brake in an emergency fashion..

I can’t recall now what John further said about that tree in the road (whether it was blocking the road, or whether he was able to drive around it) but I do recall him saying that he felt if that cat had NOT run out into the road as it did, he believed that the fallen tree would have actually fallen on top of his car, rather than in the road – with who knows what consequences! Such is ‘fate and/or ‘good luck’.

In April 1990, whilst having my annual interview with Chief Inspector Ken Hawkins at South Benfleet police station (just over the ‘Creek’ from Canvey Island), I was asked to become a ‘Firearms and Explosives Enquiry Officer’ and whilst I knew little about guns or shooting (other than the basic law on Firearms and basic ‘safe handling of firearms’ which all Bobbies are shown), as always – when a senior officer earmarks you for a particular role, unless there is a good reason to decline, one should (in my view always say yes) and I did indeed say ‘Yes’.

In May 1990, I attended a one week ‘Firearms and Explosives Enquiry Officer’s Course at Police Headquarters in Chelmsford, as did an old Basildon/Canvey colleague of mine PC Dave Proud, whom I would work in tandem with over the next few years in the Benfleet Sub-Division looking after Firearms Licensing and shooters. This was to be a whole new area of work for me, but one that I felt if I was able to master, would be good for my police career – and it proved to be so.

 

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