Police ‘in greater danger than ever before’

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The former top detective who led the investigation into the execution-style murder of a Leeds policeman exactly 10 years ago says officers face greater dangers today than ever before.

As serving West Yorkshire officers this morning prepared to lay a wreath at the spot where Pc Ian Broadhurst was shot dead on Boxing Day 2003, ex-detective superintendent Chris Gregg said criminals had become increasingly likely to use potentially lethal force against police.

In an exclusive interview to mark the 10-year anniversary, Mr Gregg also said Pc Broadhurst’s killer, David Bieber, remained one of the most dangerous men in the prison system and criticised the decision to reduce his original whole-life sentence.

He said: “I think the world is becoming more dangerous for police officers. The dangers they are facing now are higher than they’ve ever been.

“In the last few years we have had officers being shot in West Yorkshire – something we hadn’t had for 20 years before Ian Broadhurst’s death. Criminals think nothing of using anything at their means. They will think nothing of shooting an officer to get away.”

Traffic officer Pc Broadhurst was shot dead by Bieber after he and his colleague, Pc Neil Roper, questioned the American body-building fanatic about the stolen car he was driving.

Pc Roper was also shot, but survived. A third officer, James Banks, who answered a call for back-up, escaped injury after Bieber’s bullet hit his police radio.

The murder sparked a five-day manhunt for Bieber, who was eventually cornered in a guesthouse in Gateshead.

His whole-life sentence was successfully appealed in 2008 when a judge imposed a minimum 37-year-tariff. Mr Gregg said that decision was a mistake and claimed that Bieber would go on the run again if given the opportunity.

“He is one of the most dangerous people in the prison system and he will stop at nothing to escape,” he said. “I was disappointed with the decision to reduce his sentence.

“He’s one of the category of prisoners who is a risk to society and always will be. There is nothing that could convince me that this man should ever walk the streets again.”

Since Pc Broadhurst’s death, eight police officers have been killed in criminal incidents while on duty. West Yorkshire Police lost Pc Sharon Beshenivsky in 2005 when she was shot dead during a robbery. Last year Greater Manchester Police officers Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes were killed by Dale Cregan in a gun and grenade attack after he lured them to a bogus burglary.

There were echoes of the attack on Pc Broadhurst when Leeds response officer PC Suzanne Hudson was shot in Headingley on December 4 while responding to what was described as a routine call about anti-social behaviour.

Mr Gregg said: “Criminals getting hold of guns is not difficult. In the past criminals thought very carefully about using them but in recent years I think we have seen a change in mindset.

“I think it’s a determined criminal element that will stop at nothing. Police officers are doing a very dangerous job and it should not be underestimated.

“You do not know who or what you are going to be dealing with when you go on a routine job. There are some very serious issues.”

Nick Smart, the chairman of West Yorkshire Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said: “If anything, with the growth of the internet and the availability of weapons, the dangers have increased. Our mantra has always been that there’s no such thing as a routine call.”