FORMER colleagues of an unarmed police officer who was gunned down on a street in a Yorkshire city 30 years ago have claimed his memory must never be forgotten as forces across the nation face up to the growing threat of violent crime.
Serving and former West Yorkshire Police officers gathered yesterday outside Leeds Minster at the spot where Sgt John Speed was fatally wounded. Sgt Speed, who was 39, was murdered near the former Leeds Parish Church on Kirkgate in the city centre by David Gricewith on October 31, 1984.
Canon Ann Nicholl and the Rev Prof Simon Robinson led prayers outside the church as officers left floral tributes in front of a memorial to Sgt Speed.
The West Yorkshire Police Federation’s chairman, Nick Smart, said: “This happened 30 years ago in very tragic circumstances, in which an unarmed officer was shot dead. But sadly such incidents continue to this day and it’s important that we remember them all. Even though some time has passed, it remains strong in the memory of many serving officers and we will continue to remember the likes of John Speed.”
Chief Supt Paul Money, the divisional commander of police in Leeds, added: “It’s an important tradition. A fallen colleague in Leeds is someone we will always make a point of remembering.”
Sgt Speed was shot after going to the aid of a colleague who was fired on during a routine check on two men acting suspiciously near Leeds Parish Church.
Pc John Thorpe, 33, who was first at the scene, had spoken only a few words when one of the men pulled out a handgun and opened fire. Gricewith, a garage owner and well-known criminal, was only identified as the gunman after his own death two years later.
Ex-Detective Chief Supt John Conboy, who led the inquiry, said: “This had a massive impact on the police in Leeds at the time and the inquiry into Sgt Speed’s death went for on two-and-a-half years. We all knew John and we all served with him and we are here to make sure he isn’t forgotten.”
Acting Chief Constable Mark Milsom added: “Today is about supporting both the memory of a man who died giving his life for the public and the colleagues who were part of that. Sgt Speed was shot in cold blood.”
But ACC Milsom warned there has been a rise in firearms incidents, adding: “Officers still day by day take risks on behalf of the public.”
The Police Roll of Honour Trust’s manager, Steve Lloyd, said: “We would like to think our motto – Lest We Forget – is being put into action by the officers who are holding the service in honour of Sgt Speed.”