Thousands turn out for murdered Pc Nicola Hughes' funeral


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The Independent Online

A city united today in memory of a fallen “brave as they come” policewoman who made a “great sacrifice” when she was killed in the line of duty.

Thousands of members of the public stood shoulder to shoulder with police officers from across the country as the funeral cortege for Pc Nicola Hughes, 23, passed through the centre of Manchester.

They heeded the call from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) for "decent people" to come out and pay their respects to the officer and her colleague Fiona Bone, 32, whose funeral will take place tomorrow.

Both officers were lured to their deaths in a gun and grenade attack by what appeared to be a routine burglary call to a house in Hattersley, Tameside, on September 18.

Police motorcycle outriders provided a guard of honour ahead of the cortege, led by the funeral carriage pulled by six horses from GMP's mounted unit and bearing the coffin shrouded in black cloth.

Officers who walked behind were met with applause by the crowds who lined Deansgate, and the clapping continued until the first chime was sounded at Manchester Cathedral to mark a period of silence before the service began.

The family of Pc Hughes led mourners into the cathedral, including her mother Susan, father Bryn and younger brother Sam, while the coffin was carried by colleagues of Pc Hughes, with the officer's hat and a floral tribute atop.

Officers from forces nationwide volunteered to cover the shifts of GMP colleagues so they could be among the 1,000 mourners inside the cathedral - many who worked in the Tameside police division alongside Pc Hughes.

The chief constable of GMP, Sir Peter Fahy, told the congregation that Pc Hughes "set high standards for herself" and "impressed everyone with her dedication and her cheerfulness" in her three years of service with the force.

He said that when first recruited there was "never any doubt" she would meet the standards the public expected from the uniform.

"Nicola stepped forward to become a police officer knowing full well the risks involved given that her father, Bryn, is a prison officer," he said. "She decided not to be a bystander but to join the fray."

He continued: "As Sir Robert Peel laid down in 1829 'by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life'. Nicola made that sacrifice."

Sir Peter added that Pc Hughes had shown policing is "not about muscle but is about reason, restraint and intelligence".

"She had a promising career ahead of her but was driven not by personal ambition but by service to the public in need," he said.

"It is abhorrent that she met her death through an evil, dark act, but the best tribute we can make to her memory is that we continue to uphold the standards and the style of policing she demonstrated so well and ensure that might does not conquer over justice.

"She will be greatly missed by everyone that knew her. We will never forget her great sacrifice."

Her colleagues on C relief at Tameside division "greatly respected and loved her", mourners were told.

Speaking on their behalf, Sergeant Stephen Miskell said she would be remembered as being "friendly, full of life, always willing to give a helping hand, as keen as mustard, as brave as they come and last but not least the chatterbox who always left everybody else awake".

In her short time as a neighbourhood officer and then response officer she had pushed through dog flaps, stopped a police van to save a mouse from two preying cats and dashed into the pandemonium of a riot-stricken pub to quell the disorder.

He said: "A lot of people ask me how someone so young as Nicola managed to get recruited into the police service.

"It is rare for someone aged only 20 to pass the recruitment process but Nicola was very rare."

Tameside police chaplain Keith Stewart spoke of her early life and school days at Saddleworth High School which she loved and was thrilled to bring home her first piece of homework.

He asked mourners to remember "a vibrant young woman" who went on to study social sciences at Huddersfield University before joining GMP in 2009 with a view to completing her studies later.

The former waitress at the Bulls Head Inn in Delph enjoyed keeping fit, looking after her nails and hair, socialising and also held a green belt in karate.

"Remember the kind and considerate person who still had something of the little girl about her," he said.

A big screen relayed the funeral at the rear of the cathedral for several thousand more people gathered outside.

Some wiped away silent tears as the hymns were sung and poignant poems read by workmates of Pc Hughes, while a full-size photograph of her was mounted at the front of the church.

Sergeant Stephen Lovatt read Death Is Nothing At All, Inspector Jane Brown read Don't Let Your Hearts Be Troubled and Sergeant Gordon Swan read Feel No Guilt In Laughter.

Pc Tracy Miskell fought back tears as she read She Is Gone.

The coffin was borne from the cathedral to the mournful toll of a bell high above in the cathedral tower before the cortege left for a private cremation service attended by only family and friends.

The funeral of Pc Bone will be held tomorrow morning at the cathedral.

A 29-year-old man has appeared in court accused of the murders of the two policewomen.