'Darkest day' for police in 50 years as two officers


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The Independent Online

On what the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester called one of the "darkest days" in police history, two unarmed female officers were killed after being lured into a trap by a hoax call about a burglary.

Dale Cregan, 29, who was wanted for questioning over two gangland murders, later gave himself up at a local police station.

The incident was the worst attack on serving officers for nearly 50 years. The Prime Minister called it "a shocking reminder of the debt we owe to those who put themselves in danger to keep us safe".

A call to Greater Manchester Police control shortly before 10am yesterday, seemed to be a routine report of a burglary on an estate in Hattersley, a suburb to the east of the city. But it was a deadly trap. Police believe the call may have been made or instigated by Cregan, one of Britain's most-wanted and dangerous men, whom detectives have spent the past month pursuing over fatal grenade attacks on a father and son in a bitter underworld feud. Police had put a £50,000 reward on his head.

As two unarmed female police officers approached the house in Abbey Gardens, they were allegedly fired on before a grenade was hurled at them. PC Fiona Bone, 32, died at the scene while her colleague PC Nicola Hughes, 23, later succumbed to her injuries in hospital.

Dozens of vehicles and uniformed officers flooded the Hattersley areas yesterday, while bomb disposal experts examined the house for further explosives. Warren Shepherd, a window cleaner, said: "I just heard gunshots – around 10 of them, then a pause and a big explosion."

Their deaths marked the bloodiest day in British policing since 1966 when three officers were shot dead while questioning suspects in a van in west London.

Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, pictured, said his officers were "shattered" by the loss of "brave and courageous" colleagues. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said: "What we have seen is the absolutely despicable act of pure evil."

Sir Peter said it is believed Cregan, deliberately lured the women to their deaths after staying at the house overnight.

Two other people inside the property – a man and a woman – were later arrested.

The women are the first female officers to lose their lives on duty since the murder in 2005 of Sharon Beshenivsky, who was killed during a robbery on a travel agent in Bradford, West Yorkshire.