From boyhood Gerry only ever wanted to be a policeman and here I am at his grave in a cemetery north of Blackpool Tower. Sadly policing led to a grisly death aged 38. Over 100,000 people lined the streets to watch the funeral cortege crawl by. Here I am where it ended at a patch of earth upon which stands an impressive headstone.
He was born not far from this grave in Norbreck and grew up happily with his parents and sister. Leaving Blackpool Grammar School he became a police cadet though his career was postponed when he was called up for National Service. Afterwards he returned to the Police Force moving up the ranks to Superintendent level by age 36. He was married to Maureen and commended for his police work on three separate occasions. Away from the cop shop he was a member of the Rotary Club and involved in setting up a youth training centre in the Lake District.
It all ended one Monday in the summer of 1971 following a robbery at a jeweller’s shop in Blackpool. A gang of five men stole £200,00 worth of jewels (£3 million in today's money) leaving shop staff traumatised. The gang - led by “Fat Fred" Sewell - sped away in a Triumph 2000. The police arrived in time to give chase and a high speed pursuit began. The Triumph ended up in a blind alley and reversed at high speed knocking the police car aside. Another dangerous chase ensued and another police car carrying Constable Ian Hampson followed. Suddenly the Triumph screeched to a halt and Ian stopped behind it. One of the gunmen ran back to the police car and shot Ian in the chest. He flopped out onto the road but give his position on his radio. By this time other police cars were in the area and one trapped the Triumph. All the gunmen jumped out, threatened the police and even tried to shoot one (but missed.) One car was driven by Gerry and while his constables chased the gang he drove to the next street to head them off. He caught up with "Fat Fred" and tried to wrestle the gun out of his hands. In what must have seemed like a slow motion nightmare Gerry was shot twice in the stomach at close range. He was rushed to Blackpool’s Victoria Hospital but died a few hours later. He was awarded the George Cross in November 1972. He was the highest ranking police officer killed in the line of duty - and still is.
The five armed robbers were all convicted and sentenced to a combined total of 93 years in prison. “Fat Fred" escaped after the shooting but was tracked down to a north London flat and jailed for 30 years for murder (released in 2001 aged 68 and now wealthy having made property deals made in prison.)
I soon found Gerry's impressive headstone in Layton Cemetery. About 400 policemen attended the church funeral service and another 300 followed the hearse to the spot where I'm stood. His George Cross medal is presently at the Imperial War Museum. His wife called for the gang to be hanged. I did a soundly stiff salute and left.