Clapham mourns a good copper

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IN THE clear air of a sunny November morning, hundreds of ordinary people joined a police guard of honour from Clapham division to say goodbye to a 'good, honest, kind, gentle, local bobby'.

As PC Patrick Dunne's coffin, draped in a Metropolitan Police flag, was carried into Holy Trinity Church on Clapham Common, one officer struggled to maintain the crisp formality of the ceremony. His eyes kept returning to the coffin. He swallowed, glanced again and bowed his head.

On 20 October, PC Dunne, 44, climbed on his pushbike and cycled to Cato Road, Clapham, in south- west London. He was attending a domestic dispute when he heard gunshots. Unarmed and alone, he crossed the road and stumbled into a shoot-out between suspected drugs dealers.

Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said that he died 'doing what the Met does best - working with his local community'. The wreaths layed out on the church lawn hinted at that work - from Heathbrook Primary School, from Larkhill Infants' and from the housing estates he patrolled.

Fred Tyldesley, a teacher at Dean School in Bolton, where PC Dunne taught maths until three years ago, said: 'People have referred to Patrick's death as a terrible waste of life. Yes, but not a life wasted, not in any way a wasted life.'

Superintendent John Rees read from the autobiography that all officers write on joining the police. 'The police do a useful job and on the whole are valued by society,' PC Dunne wrote. 'I would find it satisfying to contribute to that work. Of course I am apprehensive about the less pleasant aspects of the job, but I hope I will be able to cope.' To which Supt Rees added: 'You coped admirably, Pat, and displayed a quality of courage for which you paid the ultimate price.'

Words from Psalm 37 read by PC Barrie Critchley echoed out across the common: 'Do not fret because of evil men, for like the grass they will soon wither.'

The Rev Joe Hawes invited the congregation to pray for the police and for the 'good people' of the area. 'The Lord has taught us that the worst evil can be turned to good. Strengthen this hope in us today.' Outside, the good people of Clapham said: 'Amen.'

(Photograph omitted)