Essex gunman found dead in churchyard

 

A man wanted for murder after a police officer was fatally shot has been found dead in a churchyard, police said.

Essex Police had launched a major manhunt and warned members of the public to stay indoors after Peter Reeve, 64, ran amok in a residential street in the seaside town of Clacton, Essex, yesterday afternoon.

Pc Ian Dibell, dubbed a hero by colleagues, was killed and another man injured in the double shooting with a handgun.

Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle said Pc Dibell, who lived near the crime scene in Redbridge Road, had "paid the ultimate price" after stepping in to protect a member of the public while off-duty.

He added: "I can confirm Peter Reeve, the man wanted for the murder of a serving police officer, was found dead, with a weapon in a Writtle churchyard and no shots were fired by the police.

"Clearly the very strong message I had to send to the public no longer applies. Any threat to the public has thankfully passed."

A cordon was this morning in place at the churchyard in the village of Writtle, near Chelmsford, where Reeve's body was found.

Officers were alerted by a member of the public at about 8.30am.

Mr Barker-McCardle said inquiries were ongoing into the motive for the attack, which neighbours say may be linked to a dispute over parking.

He added: "Whatever may or may not turn out to have sat behind the motive, yesterday can only be described as impossible to understand and a catastrophic escalation in events.

"It is an extreme set of circumstances that a man opens fire with a gun clearly firing at more than one person and shooting an off-duty police constable dead.

"There must have been some sort of catalyst that prompted the scale of a tragedy of this kind."

Mr Dibell's family issued a statement saying they were devastated by the news.

They added: "We are immensely proud of Ian and the courage he showed.

"We take some comfort from his bravery.

"Policing was in his blood and Ian selflessly went to the aid of people in desperate need without fear or thought for his own safety. It was who he was, a hero.

"He has paid for the act in the most devastating way. He will be deeply missed and no words can describe the loss."

Essex Police said Reeve was "largely unknown to the police" and did not have a licence to hold a firearm.

Officers would not comment on Reeve's precise circumstances but said they were in contact with his family.

Mr Barker-McCardle said it was important to remember that another man had been injured and could have suffered far more serious injuries.

He said there was no reason to suspect anybody else was involved in the killing.

Referring to Pc Dibell, he said: "He was a highly-regarded and well-liked community police officer.

"This was highly disturbing but police officers know there is a time to grieve and that is when this murder investigation is complete."

A message posted on Twitter from the account of the late Pc David Rathband said: "Very sad day for all those connected to a brave man doing his job.. We feel your pain more than most..RIP".

The 43-year-old blinded officer was found hanged earlier this year at his home in Blyth, Northumberland. Two years ago he was shot twice in the face by gunman Raoul Moat in Newcastle.

Police officers are understood to be at a number of properties in Writtle belonging to members of Reeve's family.

The media have been asked not to approach them as they are described as distressed and possible witnesses.

PA

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