After 30 years it was Percy’s last night shift. It was a Saturday night and the last thing I wanted was for Percy to get injured on his last shift, so I told him to crew with me for the evening: “I’ll look after you, Percy,” I said.
When it came to night-club closing time the rest of the team were there, keeping an eye on the wall-wobblers and happy drunks so Percy and I went on patrol, looking for mischief-makers around the estates.
It was 3am on a clear summer night. We had just patrolled the Wygate estate and were at the traffic light junction at Monks House Lane waiting for the green light to turn on to Bourne Road.
As we waited for the lights to change we heard what sounded like a very loud motor bike coming from the Pode Hole direction, accelerating towards us. As the lights facing us changed to green, we could still hear the engine noise and there was no change in sound to suggest it was slowing down.
Percy waited a moment: we were expecting a motor bike to come speeding through the junction in contravention of the red traffic light.
Imagine our surprise when a bright red Ferrari reversed in to our view, travelling along the main road in reverse at considerable speed, straight through the red traffic light. The driver was clearly struggling with the controls, couldn’t get it to go forward and stalled in the middle of the junction right in front of us.
I jumped out of the police car and started towards the Ferrari. Just at that moment the driver re-started the car and looked up, seeing me for the first time. He looked directly at me and in the glow of the street lights I could clearly see him mouth a phrase that rhymed with ‘Oh luck’ and started to drive away, turning in to The Broadway.
I ran back to the police car, grateful that Percy was driving as he was an ex-traffic cop and former advanced driver.
Let me make it clear: in our diesel powered Vauxhall Astra this was never going to be an interceptor-style police pursuit. All we could do was follow at an ever increasing distance, while I used the police radio to alert other officers of the last-seen location and direction of travel.
We followed the Ferrari through the Parkway estate in to Hawthorn Bank and as we went round a slight bend in Hawthorn Bank I just caught a glimpse of tail lights going over Little London Bridge, turning left on to Cowbit Road.
Taking a chance that the tail lights were from the Ferrari we travelled down Cowbit Road and close to the junction with Balmoral Avenue found the Ferrari abandoned in the middle of the road.
The driver had lost control, collided with some parked cars and spun in the road, finally coming to rest facing back the way it had just travelled.
The driver was nowhere to be seen, but was very quickly found hiding nearby by other officers. It wasn’t his lucky day: not only was the Ferrari badly damaged, but the driver wasn’t insured. He was later convicted of drink/driving, dangerous driving and driving with no insurance and went to prison.
Although Percy didn’t make the arrest, his driving skills in keeping up with the Ferrari meant that Percy’s last shift ended on an adrenaline-fuelled high note and a dangerous driver was taken off the streets before they harmed someone.
After that, there was only one retirement gift we could think of: we clubbed together and gave Percy a day out driving Ferraris at Silverstone.