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Sir Stanley Bailey: Policeman and former 'Bevin Boy'

Stanley Bailey's career as a senior policeman was preceded and followed by two unusual episodes. As a youth he spent several nights in a police cell, while as a septuagenarian widower he went through a quickie marriage in Las Vegas.

In between he rose through the ranks of the Metropolitan Police before going on to spend 16 years as Chief Constable of Northumbria. Along the way he was responsible for a number of innovations, including neighbourhood policing and the use of computers in police investigations. He also played a role in two widely publicised hunts for the murderers of two young girls.

Born in London in 1926, the son of a polisher and grandson of a policeman, Stanley Ernest Bailey was early in uniform – and early, too, in trouble. During the Second World War he was a member of the Home Guard while still in his teens. He was keen to join the navy but affronted when ordered to become a "Bevin Boy."

These were young men who, named after the Minister of Labour Ernest Bevin, were detailed to work down the mines rather than sent on active service. When he refused to comply, complaining that he wanted to fight rather than dig, he was taken to court and fined £1. When he still refused to go he was remanded in custody for three days, after which he agreed and was sent to collieries in the North East.

When he applied to join the Met after the war he had to pass a searching interview with a senior officer, having to explain what was first suspected of being bolshie behaviour before he was accepted for the police. He was spotted as suitable material for promotion, working in the West End and elsewhere in the capital and rising to the rank of superintendent by 1965. In that year he moved to Staffordshire Police as assistant chief constable.

His time there was marked by his involvement in two major murder inquiries, the first involving a seven-year-old child, Christine Darby, who was strangled in 1967 by Raymond Leslie Morris, who was later convicted of this and other crimes. The second investigation was the search for Donald Neilson, known as the "Black Panther", who in 1975 kidnapped the teenage heiress Lesley Whittle, keeping her prisoner for several days before murdering her.

Bailey's period in Staffordshire was interrupted by a spell as the first police director of the Home Office's police research and development unit, after which he returned with a promotion to deputy chief constable.

He soon moved on to become Chief Constable of Northumbria, a post he was to hold from 1975 to 1991. He was an early advocate of community involvement in policing, promoting neighbourhood watch schemes and emphasising crime prevention.

In one initiative, he helped establish the Northumbria Coalition Against Crime, which was credited with reducing drug crime and youth offending. He became interested in such approaches after attending specialised courses in the United States: such interests are commonplace today, but in the 1970s they were ground-breaking.

Over the years he became a familiar fixture on the senior police circuit at home and abroad. He served a term as president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and was a member for 14 years of a Home Office committee on crime prevention.

He also held office in the International Association of Chiefs of Police, visiting the US and the Soviet Union. He was given the Queen's Police Medal in 1973 and in the 1980s was appointed CBE and later given a knighthood. In his retirement he became a campaigner for increased pensions, describing their levels as deplorable.

He also took an active part in the security industry, and an industry associate said of him, "Sir Stanley was always courteous, precise, encouragingly articulate, without pomp and able to persuade through his warm, inclusive, intelligent and generous personality."

After the death of his wife, Marguerita, in 1997, after 43 years of marriage, he married Maureen Shinwell the following year at a ceremony in Las Vegas. They had planned to marry later on, but while in the Nevada city impetuously decided to expedite affairs.

Maureen said at the time: "We never planned to get married – we had just gone for a holiday – but we started asking questions about the marriage chapel. And the more questions we asked the deeper we got into it. So we thought, 'Why not?'"

Sir Stanley explained: "We decided to get married at 11am and the officials agreed to conduct the ceremony that afternoon. Maureen had to rush out to buy an outfit as she had only taken her holiday clothes with her." The couple later went through a second ceremony, in England.

David McKittrick

Stanley Bailey, chief constable: born London 30 September 1926; Assistant Chief Constable, Staffordshire 1966-70, Deputy Chief Constable, Staffordshire 1973-75; Chief Constable Northumbria 1975-91; CBE 1980; Kt 1986; married 1954 Marguerita Whitbread (died 1997), 1998 Maureen Shinwell; died Newcastle upon Tyne 9 August 2008.