Well I suppose I need to start with an apology, this story is not about Targets or Crime, just the opposite really, and if any of you are feeling a tad squeamish you might want to turn over to something else.
Some of you may have heard this story, most of you won’t. At least one of you was serving with me at the time in question and presumably heard about it. It wasn’t a well-kept secret.
Back in the 80s I was what used to pass as a Community Bobby, or Home Beat as the Met liked to call them then. One Saturday morning I was called up and asked to return to the nick. The Duty Inspector wanted to talk to me urgently, and No he couldn’t tell me what it was about over the radio.
So I hopped on a bus and got myself back as quickly as I could. It was not good news. It turns out that a colleague of mine from an adjoining Division had gone missing. His wife had come home on Friday night to find a note, together with the remains of a bottle of pills and some empty booze bottles. She’d called an ambulance, he’d been taken to hospital, still alive and had now done a runner from the ward he was on.
The Inspector’s next words will remain with me till the day I die “You’re the only one on duty who knows him, you can deal with the Missing Person Enquiry”.
So began the single darkest investigation of my illustrious career.
First stop the hospital where things were due to get a whole load worse. He’d. Been put on a ward on the 8th floor overnight while the medical & psychiatric staff assessed him and he’d done no more than try to jump out of the window. Two attempts in 24 hours.
By now he’d walked out of the hospital building wearing nothing more than his hospital gown.
Not very long after this a crackly voice on my radio told me that the driver of a passing train had seen the body of a woman by the side of the tracks. About 10 minutes walk away.
It didn’t take long to establish that it wasn’t a woman but my mate, or what was left of him. I called up the Duty Inspector and informed him and he graciously sent a Sergeant to come and supervise me at the scene. He was far too busy to leave the nick.
The Sergeant who pitched up was a good one, but I found I was spending more time stopping him from stepping on the live rail than briefing him about the unfolding tragedy. So I’m afraid I shouted at him, he took in good spirit and we both got on with doing what needed to be done.
It goes without saying he was dead. Mercifully he would have died instantly. I now know what drove him to this terrible deed, and all I will say on the matter is that it was something that he SHOULD have been able to take in his stride and deal with it. It was neither related to the Job nor his marriage. That is all.
Once we’d finished at the scene, for continuity purposes, I had to accompany his remains to the hospital, then the mortuary and ultimately the Post Mortem and Inquest. Offering him what little dignity I could. The Coroner was brilliant and returned an Open Verdict on the grounds that nobody could say he wasn’t pushed, so at least his poor widow was left with the Life Insurance.
So after a day rushing around first trying to establish what had happened, then trying to find my mate and then dealing with the bloody aftermath, what words of comfort did my Duty Inspector have for me when I returned to base?
“Nice job, see you in the morning”
I’m not after your sympathy, these events are safely stowed away in a box and now only come out when I let them. The nightmares have stopped. It certainly wasn’t a typical day in the Met, but neither was it unique. I believe that the Met is slightly more enlightened these days, and hopefully, being the only Cop on duty who knows somebody might be the perfect reason NOT to deal with it.
But I won’t have any haggardy witch telling me that Police work is all about CRIME.
Take the Police Officers out of the above scenario for a minute. Who would have dealt with it?
There isn’t another single agency that would have dealt with the events I have relayed above, and not a single crime was committed or alleged.
That is only one tale from a 30 year career, multiply that by 130,000. Allow for more than one such instance in a career, most officers will have many such tales of trauma to tell. Still no crime involved.
So Cruella, you can do one, do yourself a favour. If you want to get it right and improve your (much) tarnished reputation just trying listening to them that do the Job, they just might know better than you what’s involved, and maybe even, how many are needed to do it.
Or you might just try carrying on with the wrecking ball.
Either way, I won’t be voting for your party, so you can stick that right up your Purdah.
Many know who you were