Police officers work to keep us safe, and when one is killed doing their job it's always a devastating day. Here we remember six police officers who put their lives on the line and paid a terrible price.
On 22 March 2017, PC Keith Palmer, 48, was stabbed to death by a suspected terrorist while protecting the Houses of Parliament. Moments earlier, at around 2.40pm, the attacker, a British citizen, had purposefully mown down a number of pedestrians after mounting the pavement as he drove across London’s Westminster Bridge, before crashing the hired 4×4 into some railings.
Leaving four people dead and up to 40 injured, the attacker – 52-year-old Khalid Masood from Kent, then ran towards parliament. It was there he encountered PC Palmer, a police officer of 15 years, and married father of a seven-year-old daughter.
Armed with two knives, the attacker lunged at PC Palmer. Completely unarmed, the police officer, who once served in the army, didn’t stand a chance, and suffered devastating knife wounds. The attacker, who was dressed in black was then shot by security forces.
Foreign office minister Tobias Ellwood was among those who rushed to help PC Palmer. The Conservative MP, who tragically lost his brother in the Bali terrorist bombing, was seen performing CPR and heart massage on PC Palmer. Blood was smeared on his face and hands. Paramedics also fought to save the officer’s life but sadly he died of his injuries.
Masood also died of his injuries at the scene. Although he had no terrorism convictions, he had a range of previous convictions for possession of offensive weapons, assaults including GBH and criminal damage.
On 6 October 1985, PC Keith Blakelock, 40, was assigned to a Metropolitan Police unit called to a riot at the Broadwater Farm housing estate in Tottenham, North London.
The disturbance was sparked after police burst into the home of Broadwater Farm resident Cynthia Jarrett looking for stolen goods. They found nothing, but Mrs Jarrett, 49, collapsed from a heart attack.
Anger at police from London’s black community was already at boiling point. Weeks before there had been riots in Brixton over the accidental police shooting an innocent black woman, Cherry Groce. Now the anger had spread north to Tottenham and exploded into violence.
Fires had been set on the estate and petrol bombs and bottles were thrown at firefighters who came to tame the blaze. Angry residents had armed themselves with baseball bats, knives and bricks.
PC Blakelock – a husband and father of three boys – was one of 500 police, with riot shields and helmets, called to the estate. His unit was tasked with protecting the firefighters. In the tussle with the rioting mob, he lost his footing and fell.
On the ground, PC Blakelock was surrounded by up to 50 rioters who stabbed him 43 times and attempted to decapitate him, using knives and a machete. He died at the scene.
In 1987, three men were convicted of PC Blakelock’s murder and sentenced to life but the convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal four years later. In 2014 a fourth man stood trial for PC Blakelock’s murder but was acquitted at trial.
PC Blakelock was posthumously awarded the Queens Gallantry Medal and a memorial to him is Muswell Hill, his usual beat as an officer.
More than 30 years since his brutal murder, the case remains open.
Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes
On 18 November 2012, PC Nicola Hughes and PC Fiona Bone responded to a report of a burglary in Manchester at 11am. They didn’t know it, but they’d walked into a trap.
Dale Cregan, 29, who was wanted for the murder of two men in a pub fight, had made a hoax call to police, claiming a lump of concrete had been thrown through his window.
‘I’ll be waiting,’ he’d told the operator.
When PC Hughes and PC Bone attended the given address they were met by Cregan, who fired 32 bullets at them and launched a grenade before driving off. Both officers were killed.
Cregan handed himself in at a police station an hour after the heinous crime. In February 2013, he admitted murdering PC Hughes and PC Bone, at Preston Crown Court. He was given a whole life order, after also being convicted of the murder of the men killed in the pub fight, and three other attempted murders.
The deaths of PC Hughes and PC Bone outraged the nation, and re-opened the debate about whether police officers should be armed. Then Prime Minister David Cameron honoured their work, calling their murders ‘an act of pure evil’.
On 26 December 2003, traffic officers from West Yorkshire Police, PC Ian Broadhurst and PC Neil Roper, approached a parked BMW they identified as having false number plates.
The driver of the car was David Bieber – a man wanted for murder in his native Florida, who’d entered the UK with a false passport.
With no way of knowing how dangerous their suspect was, the officers asked Bieber to accompany them to their police car, and sat him in the back seat. They called for back up, and PC James Banks arrived.
Then, when PC Roper went to handcuff Bieber, he pulled out a gun and started shooting. Only PC Banks escaped without injury.
Before fleeing, Bieber walked over to PC Broadhurst, who’d been immobilised by a gunshot, and fired a final, fatal shot to his head as the officer begged for his life.
After a nationwide search, Bieber was arrested. At Newcastle Crown Court, in November 2004, he denied murder, two counts of attempted murder, and other firearms charges.
He was sentenced to a whole life term, which was later reduced on appeal to life with a minimum of 37 years before he can apply for parole. He still faces a charge of murder and attempted murder in Florida.
Tributes poured in for PC Broadhurst. A statement released by his family after sentencing said: ‘Ian did not die in vain. He died doing the job he loved and serving the people of Leeds.’
Sharon Beshenivsky, 38, had been police officer for just nine months in November 2005. She was a proud and dedicated officer of West Yorkshire Police, and a wife and mother, looking forward to finishing work so she could return home celebrate her daughter’s fourth birthday.
But PC Beshenivsky never did arrive home that day. She and a female colleague got an emergency call at a Bradford travel agency in the afternoon.
Arriving at the scene, the officers found armed robbers, who began firing. PC Beshenivsky was left fatally wounded, and her colleague was seriously injured. The robbers fled, and the hunt for the killers began.
In December 2006, Yusuf Jama, 20, and Muzzaker Shah, 25, were convicted of Sharon Beshenivsky’s murder. They were sentenced to life, to serve a minimum of 35 years.
Later, two other men were convicted of manslaughter, and another of robbery. Yusuf Jama’s brother, Mustaf, had fled to his native Somalia, but was extradited to the UK, where he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life.
In 2009, a memorial to PC Beshenivsky was unveiled at the spot where she died by Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister at the time. Paying tribute, he described PC Beshenivsky as ‘a wonderful wife, a wonderful mother, a wonderful servant of the community, a courageous woman.’
Detective Constable Stephen Oake was a devoted police officer for almost 20 years. Public service was a huge part of life for the married father of three – his own father had also been a long-serving officer, and DC Oake had even played trumpet in the police band.
By 2003, he was a detective on the anti-terrorism squad at Greater Manchester Police.
On 14 January that year, he and fellow officers attended a flat in North Manchester where they encountered Kamel Bourgass – who was wanted in connection with a ricin factory discovered in London days earlier.
Bourgass tried to escape, and in the process of doing so stabbed DC Oake eight times with a kitchen knife. Despite his injuries, which would prove fatal, DC Oake managed to hold on to Bourgass, preventing the terrorist from doing further harm to his unarmed colleagues, who’d also suffered knife wounds.
In June 2004, Kamel Bourgass was convicted of the murder of DC Oake, the attempted murder of two other officers, and the wounding of another. He was sentenced to life with a minimum of 22 years. In April 2005, he was jailed for another 17 years after being convicted for his role in the ricin plot.
Manchester mourned Stephen Oake – lining the streets as a mark of respect on the day of his funeral, which was attended by over 1,000 people, including the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
In 2009, DC Oakes was posthumously awarded a Queen’s Gallantry Medal.