|District 9940 Rotary Club of Porirua Sundown President Elect Gordon Beattie presents his club banner to District 1190 Rotary Club of Blackpool South, UK President Jaqui Longden.|
Wednesday, 7 March 2012
But death cannot kill their names
“For justice and law good men must die but death cannot kill their names”
- By Gordon Beattie, President Elect of the Rotary Club of Porirua Sundown, NZ
who was a Police Officer in Blackpool, UK for 30 years
On 23 August 1971, during the busy summer holiday period in the top Lancashire seaside resort of Blackpool, a South London car dealer, “Fat” Freddie Sewell and four gang members raided a jewellers in The Strand, near to the North Pier. During this supposedly “simple job,” whilst the gang scooped up trays of jewellery, the shop manager was able to get to the rear of the shop and press the panic alarm. The gang panicked and fled to a waiting getaway car leaving a trail of rings and bracelets. As they fled, PC Carl Walker driving a patrol car to the alarm, saw them get into the car and chased them for almost a mile into a residential area where he trapped them in a cul-de-sac. Sewell was driving the getaway car and rammed the police car before driving away again and then abandoning the car. PC Walker still followed and chased them on foot before Sewell turned a gun on PC Walker and fired two shots. They both missed and PC Walker continued to chase him until a further shot hit him in the leg and he fell to the ground.
PC Ian Hampson then took up the chase and he was shot at close range in the chest by gang member, John Spry, the bullet narrowly missing his heart.
The police continued their chase, the gang split up as did the pursuing police officers, and Superintendent Richardson cornered Sewell, rugby tackled him to the ground and grabbed him around the throat. Two shots were fired from the 7.65mm automatic revolver; one tore a hole in the sleeve of the Superintendent’s tunic, and the other hit his stomach. Sewell managed to escape through a maze of back alleys and with the help of a female accomplice, hid himself in the boot of her vehicle and returned the 300 miles to London via the Lake District. The rest of the gang were captured in the back alleys of Blackpool North Shore.
Superintendent Richardson was taken to the Blackpool Victoria Hospital, but died that same day, the highest ranking officer ever to be killed on duty on the streets of Britain.
For 45 days Sewell was on the run in London but the offer of a reward, particularly £10,000 ($20,000) from the Daily Mirror newspaper, proved too much for one of his so called “friends”, and the act of betrayal was complete.
Sewell returned to Lancashire and was finally sentenced to 80 years imprisonment concurrently, with the recommendation that he should serve a minimum of 30 years imprisonment. The epitaph to Superintendent Richardson was probably best spoken by his killer, “He was too brave.”
Six policemen and Gerry’s widow, Maureen, attended Buckingham Palace where they were honoured as heroes by the Queen, with Gerry being posthumously awarded the George Cross, the highest peacetime award for valour.
The Superintendent Gerald Richardson Memorial Youth Trust
At the time of his death, Gerry was an active Rotarian with a passion for youth work. He was a member of the Rotary Club of Blackpool North, and in 1974 members of that club established a charitable trust in order to honour his memory.
Shortly before his death Gerry had been a prime mover in raising considerable funds to acquire Snows Heights in the Lake District for use as centre for the young people of Blackpool, so it seemed logical to expand his work.
The Superintendent Gerald Richardson Memorial Youth Trust was created in Gerry’s honour to promote youth development, by supporting people under the age of 25, to attend courses and activities of an educational, cultural, sporting, adventuresome, or character building nature, who live or work within 15 miles of the Blackpool Town Hall, which is next to The Strand, where this incident started.
The Trust, managed by a committee of Rotarians and Local Youth Services, has so far helped around 16,000 young people from the area take part in life enhancing activities and has disbursed over £250,000 ($500,000) to good causes.
Past President Douglas Leatham, in his capacity of Honorary Treasurer of the Trust, was the main driving force and his hard work has been recognised by awarding a Paul Harris Fellowship plus Rotary International’s “Service Above Self” award.
The Management Committee meet monthly and support activities such as assisting an applicant with visual impairment to purchase electronic equipment to assist with school examinations, a special needs applicant to attend an outdoor pursuits centre, a student to visit Vietnam to teach English and another to attend a course at the Manchester Youth Theatre.
Awards are also made to youth organisations, for example Ocean Youth Sailing Club and the Blackpool Young Peoples’ Council when planning a trip to Poland.
Additionally each year one primary school and one high school are invited to send one of their classes to an outdoor pursuit course in the Lake District and the Trust bears the costs.
On 23 August 2011 the community of the Claremont district of Blackpool, close to where Gerry received his fatal injury, held a special church ceremony. They unveiled a bench and plaque in his honour.
Later that same evening, a commemorative dinner was held at the Blackpool Football Club in order to raise money for the Youth Trust. Promoted by the Rotary Club of Blackpool South, the black tie function was attended by almost 300 people and raised considerable funds for the Trust.
Guest speaker, leading High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques, reminded people of Gerry’s unreserved act of bravery, sharing the events of that day in great detail. He added that in his entire lengthy career in the judiciary, he has never experienced such a display of courage as shown by those officers’ on that fateful day.
Probably, in the time that it has taken you to flick through the pages of this magazine, £106,000 ($212,000) worth of jewellery was stolen, nine shots were fired, three police officers were shot, and Superintendent Gerald Richardson was fatally injured.
Over 1,000,000 people lined the streets of Blackpool at his funeral, and the inscription on his headstone was: “For justice and law good men must die but death cannot kill their names.” Forty years on and thanks to Rotary, Gerry’s legacy lives on …
· Crime in Britain Today by Clive Borrell
· Wikipedia search Gerry Richardson
· Blackpool Gazette online
· BBC News Lancashire
· The Superintendent Gerald Richardson Memorial Plaque Dedication
· Lancashire Constabulary website