The Manchester officers who died this week were the first two to be killed in the same incident since Barry Prudom’s murders in 1982. Joe Shute meets some of those whose colleagues paid the ultimate price.
Pcs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone pulled on their uniforms on Tuesday morning, went to investigate a routine burglary and were cut down in a hail of bullets and grenade shards.
As the details of the murders of the 23-year-old and 32-year-old officers emerged, the nation watched paralysed in disbelief.
Police say they were lured to their deaths.
They were gunned down on a residential road in broad daylight; one officer died at the scene, another later in hospital.
Eyewitnesses said other officers were seen running away from the scene in tears.
It is the first time two female constables have ever been murdered in mainland Britain, the first time a female officer has been shot dead since Pc Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford in 2005 and the first time two officers have been murdered in the same incident since Barry Prudom’s 17-day reign of terror 30 years ago, which left two North Yorkshire officers dead.
In the words of Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy, a dark shadow has settled over the area this week.
But for those involved in the hunt for Prudom, that shadow has moved well over the Pennines and reignited old memories they know they will never forget.
Retired Police Constable Mike Clipston, 79, served in the Yorkshire force from 1957 to 1984, and was the man who discovered the body of Prudom’s first victim, Pc David Haigh, who was shot near Harrogate with a .22 pistol.
Pc Haigh had been sent out on an unusually cold, misty morning on June 17, 1982, to execute a warrant for the arrest of a known petty criminal believed to be sleeping rough in woodland near Beckwithshaw, on the outskirts of the spa town. But instead he stumbled across Prudom asleep in his car and was murdered by the side of the road.
“The shootings this week have brought back the memories of what happened in 1982,” Mr Clipston said.
“It is heart-breaking, really. Unless you have been involved in something like that, nobody can really expect to understand what it is like.”
Mr Clipston, who still lives in Harrogate, today reveals he had in fact arrested the same criminal Pc Haigh was sent out to find the previous evening, but an error with the new police computer system being implemented at the time means no record of it was ever kept.
“It is just something you never expect and I still think about it now,” he said.
“The person he had a warrant for, I had taken into the police station the night before. If he had known, David would never have gone.
“At the time they were changing the system from putting things in a ledger to putting things on a computer. There was no reference of when I had got him in.
“David was a conscientious policeman. He was a hard-working lad and that is one of the reasons why he must have just found the warrant in his box and thought ‘I will get on with that.”
The morning he discovered Pc Haigh’s body, Mr Clipston arrived at Harrogate police station to begin his shift at 9am when he was told his colleague had not been seen since 6am and was out of radio contact.
“I was told David had gone out in my area to look for a person,” he said. “They could not contact him on the radio and were very worried at that point.
“The story was he had gone somewhere where somebody was sleeping rough in a car. The first port of call was between Beckwithshaw and Norwood. I went there and couldn’t find anybody so then went up to Norwood Edge.
“There, just off the road, David’s car was parked. I saw his door was open and then when I went round he was lying on the floor with a hole in his head. He was obviously dead. I cannot describe it, but I was very shocked.
“I notified the station and they eventually sent somebody out. It felt like bloody ages. I found him at about 9.20am and never left that spot until about 1pm.
“During that time my wife had heard on the radio that a policeman had been killed and she thought it was me. Nobody told her.”
After the shooting, Prudom, a gun-obsessed loner who had jumped bail from Leeds Crown Court where he was due to stand trial for assault, went on the run.
In Lincolnshire he broke into a house. Then, 20 miles away, on the fifth day of the police hunt, he entered the home of Sylvia and George Luckett, shooting both in the head before escaping in their car.
Mr Luckett died instantly, but his wife crawled next door for help. She survived, but was so traumatised she remembers nothing of the attack.
Prudom then fled to Dalby Forest in North Yorkshire, where he shot at police dog-handler Ken Oliver after his car was stopped during a routine check.
Prudom blasted his nose off, but miraculously he survived.
The next day, a huge operation was mounted – it remains one of the largest manhunts ever –involving marksmen, helicopters and 1,000 policemen.
Officers were warned not to approach any vehicles alone without armed back-up, a lot of which was drafted in from Greater Manchester Police.
But on the 12th day of the hunt, Sgt David Winter and Pc Mick Wood were on patrol in Old Malton when Pc Wood saw his colleague challenging a man. There was a gunshot – and Winter lay dead on the grass.
“You could hear what was happening over the radio when Sgt Winter approached Prudom,” Mr Clipston said.
“We were told then to never approach anybody on our own without firearm back-up.
“If David Winter had done that he would still be alive now.”
Retired constable Les Coverdale, now 58, who joined North Yorkshire Police in 1974 and served for 33 years, was also involved in the hunt for Prudom and was friends with Sgt Winter.
“Dave was shot as he jumped over a wall,” he said.
“Coming back to work afterwards the very next day is the worst of the lot.
“You all still have to continue working together and you have to come into work and carry on with the job.
“It is not just looking for the killer, you have to continue with the day-to-day work as well.
“You are going to places where your colleague was lying dead 24 hours previously.
“Dave was an extremely popular fellow. He was such a nice man, very steady.
“He was good at his job and looked after his Pcs. It has been extremely difficult this week.
“If you didn’t shed a tear, I just think you have no feeling.
“These officers are now dead but their families are going through sheer hell. It straight away takes you back to where your own colleagues were murdered. I have been thinking about them every day.”
After shooting Sgt Winter, Prudom hid in a makeshift shelter near Malton Tennis Club, where on July 4, as the police net closed tighter around him, he turned his gun on himself.
In the last 40 years more than 70 police officers have been killed on duty, while in the last two decades, 54 have been murdered.
National Police Memorial Day was established in 2004 to commemorate police officers lost in the line of duty, with Prince Charles as its patron.
Next week the NPMD memorial service will take place in Yorkshire for the first time.
More than 2,000 current and retired officers and their families are expected to stand, heads bowed, in York Minster for the service on September 30, while the names of four men and women on the police roll of honour who have died in the past year are read out.
Among them, will be Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone.
Just last week they may well have been planning on attending with their families to pay their respects to fallen colleagues... now they are among the heroes who will be mourned.
A 17-day reign of terror
In the summer of 1982 Barry Prudom, above, a gun-obsessed loner, jumped bail from Leeds Crown Court where he was due to stand trial for assault, and when approached by Pc David Haigh near Harrogate, shot him with a .22 pistol.
The Leeds-born electrician went on the run, murdering George Luckett near Newark and stealing his car.
Prudom then fled back to North Yorkshire where he attempted to kill dog handler PC Ken Oliver and then murdered Sgt David Winter in Old Malton.
As the largest manhunt the country had ever seen tightened around him, Prudom – who had attended survival skill training – holed up in a makeshift shelter at Malton Tennis Club.
In the early hours of July 4, he shot himself.