Policewoman shot dead in shop robbery

A female police officer has been shot and killed and another left seriously injured after they responded to an armed robbery in Bradford.
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The Independent Online

The two female officers , both unarmed and with less than two year's experience of policing, had been called to a shop in the city centre yesterday afternoon in response to an alarm. Efforts were made by paramedics to resuscitate them at the scene.

Last night, West Yorkshire Police said the officers were taken to Bradford Royal Infirmary where one died. The other was said to have serious but not life-threatening injuries after being hit in the shoulder.

At a press conference last night, Detective Superintendent Andy Brennan said "a personal attack alarm" was activated at the Universal Express Travel Agents on Morley Street, Bradford.

Det Supt Brennan said: "That alarm activation was initially sent to a central alarm bureau and the police were then informed. The nearest officers to respond were two unarmed female officers in their 30s.

"Accounts of what happened are still being obtained but we do know that, as the officers arrived at the travel agents, up to three men ran from the premises, one shot was fired initially and was the fatal shot." More shots were fired shortly afterwards.

He confirmed that both WPcs were "probation" officers ­ with less than two years' service ­ and both were wearing body armour.

He said: "This was not a call where the officers knew in any way before they got there that this was robbery in progress or that firearms were either in use or were threatened. Again, I reitereate they went unarmed and they were simply doing their job, trying to help people and protect people."

He went on to appeal for any information as to the identity of those responsible.

Assistant Chief Constable David Crompton said that every single member of West Yorkshire Police, from the Chief Constable to the newest recruit, is "absolutely determined they will catch the people responsible for this crime".

He said: "We will track down every lead, follow every line of inquiry. We will make sure that, no matter how long it takes, we will bring the people responsible to justice."

Last night, Tony Blair's spokesman said the Prime Minister was "shocked and saddened" to hear of the shooting. Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, expressed his "sincere sympathies".

The incident ­ the first female officer to be killed in the line of duty for four years ­ will undoubtedly renew calls for police to be better protected, or even routinely armed, and once again highlight the proliferation of guns on British streets.

The area around the shop, close to an alleyway, was cordoned off and armed police stood guard while scenes-of-crime specialists were brought in and officers conducted inquiries.

Last night, West Yorkshire Police said they were checking the first reports of the robbery to see if it yielded information as to the seriousness of the robbery.

A Home Office spokes-woman said later that "the policy in this country has long been that the police should not generally be armed and that gives a character to our policing that we should not readily give up".

However, PC Norman Brennan, director of Protect the Protectors and a leading police campaigner, called for a nationwide ballot of all officers on whether they wanted to be routinely armed.

PC Brennan said: "The time has come for an informed debate on a ballot of officers from every force on the full-time arming of the British police service.

"The adage that if you arm the police more criminals will carry guns is nonsense. The police service are being outgunned on the streets of Britain day and night. The romantic image of the Dixon of Dock Green, unarmed 'bobby on the beat' has to be consigned to the history books.

"If police officers are to retain the highest confidence of the public and their own morale, surely the time has come for them to be able to defend themselves and the British public with every means possible. If that includes the routine carrying of firearms, then so be it."

Michael Winner, the film director who founded the Police Memorial Trust after the 1984 shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, is also backing the routine arming of frontline officers.

He said: "They are massively at risk and the only way to protect them is to give them body armour at all times or to arm them. I think they should be armed."

Earlier this week, Britain's most senior police chief said he would like to see the police service remain unarmed. Delivering the Dimbleby lecture, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, said: "The British Isles retain the only largely unarmed police services in the world except for New Zealand ­ and with all respect to Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland, they are not the East End of London, not Hackney, not Haringey or Tower Hamlets, not the pressured environments of Lambeth, Southwark, St Paul's, Handsworth or Moss Side. Yet 90 per cent of the Met, for instance, remains unarmed ­ I want to keep it that way."

The Police Federation, representing rank-and-file officers, also remains opposed to the idea of routinely arming police officers.

However, for many officers in West Yorkshire Police, the shooting will inevitably bring back painful memories of the murder of PC Ian Broadhurst on Boxing Day 2003.

PC Broadhurst, 34, was shot dead by a former US Marine, David Bieber, in Leeds ­ 15 miles away from the scene of yesterday's incident. Bieber, who was also wanted for a murder in the United States, went on the run but was tracked down and later found guilty at Leeds Crown Court. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Last night, much of Bradford city centre remained cordoned off and police urged people to stay away. A police officer could be seen crying near the scene.

Tom McGhie, of West Yorkshire Police Federation, said: "Police officers go to work and they expect to go home. Sadly, this officer is not going to go home tonight."