A ‘quiet’ Sunday night

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ON THE BEAT: With Inspector Jim Tyner

Most cops will tell you that Sunday nights tend to be ‘all or nothing’ shifts: you can spend hours on patrol and not see another vehicle, or you can be rushed off your feet.

In June 1994 I was the beat bobby for the east side of Spalding. This was normally a cycle beat and I usually worked day shifts and evening shifts. Instead I was covering for a sick colleague and working a 12-hour night shift driving the emergency response car.

I reported for duty at 7pm and started to write up a prosecution file for a drink/drive prisoner from the previous day.

Before I had a chance to complete the paperwork I was despatched to an alarm activation at a farm in Pinchbeck. They have to be treated as a potential crime in progress, so I blue-lighted there and quickly checked the perimeter. I then waited for the key holder and when they eventually turned up we checked the premises. This turned out to be another false activation.

As I was already in Pinchbeck, I popped round the address of a man I wanted to speak to in connection with a criminal damage at the Queensgate Hotel the previous night. It was now 8:10pm. My luck was in, and the man answered the door. He was arrested and taken to the police station. I managed to get him booked in, interviewed, charged and home again by 9:05pm: less than an hour. How’s that for swift justice?

I now had two prosecution files to submit: the drink/drive one and the criminal damage one. At 11pm I was interrupted by another alarm activation in Pinchbeck, but the premises key-holder was already there when I got there, so that job didn’t take long. I was just on my way back to the police station when there was a report of a violent domestic incident in Cowbit.

This was another blue-light run. I got there at the same time as my colleague, Simon, and the sergeant.

It was now 11:30pm. The victims were an elderly couple who had extensive bruising, having been assaulted by their 20-year-old son. While the others spoke with the father and mother, I went to speak with the son in his bedroom. He didn’t seem in any way perturbed by my presence and was very quickly arrested and handcuffed.

Simon and I then had to take the son to Boston Police Station. (We could only keep people in detention at Spalding for 6 hours, so if it was likely to take longer, it was better to take them to Boston).

We arrived at half past midnight and it was a quick ‘dump and run’ as we needed to get back to Cowbit to take statements from the mum and dad. We left Boston 20 minutes later. We had just got to the edge of Spalding when the radio crackled with a request for urgent assistance by another officer. It was now 1:20am.

We rushed straight to the address on a housing estate in Spalding. As we arrived I could see a police car parked outside and a front door wide open, with lights on inside. Heart racing, I ran up the garden path, not knowing what we would find inside.

At the top of the stairs there was another colleague, John, and the sergeant struggling with a very large, very vocal, very drunk and very violent man. We got the man handcuffed, but he continued to struggle.

We needed to get him down the stairs and outside to the police van. This meant the sergeant holding the man’s left arm, John holding the right arm while I carefully took hold of the man’s head.

I had to be careful as he tried to bite me, but I needed to stop him thrashing about. This meant I had to walk backwards down the stairs, still holding the man’s head.

As you can imagine, you can’t walk three abreast on a normal stairs, so the sergeant and John had to walk behind, still holding the man’s arms. It was all very squashed but we eventually got the man outside and into the back of the police van. It had taken 30 minutes to take the man out of the house and was now 2am.

The sergeant and John took their prisoner to Boston. Simon and I set off for Cowbit to take those statements from the mum and dad. Just as we entered Cowbit I noticed a van parked up in the Barrier Bank lay-by. It looked out of place. A quick check showed that the ignition barrel had been damaged. A check on the computer showed the vehicle was from Essex.

Although not yet reported, this was likely to be a stolen vehicle. We asked the control room to contact Essex Police so enquiries could be made with the registered keeper. We should have remained with the van while arranging recovery, but we really needed to get to the poor mum and dad, so we left the van there.

By the time we got back to the Cowbit address it was 2:30am. The house was in darkness. I didn’t have the heart to wake the elderly couple, so I put a note through the door asking them to phone us. That done, we made our way back to Barrier Bank.

You’ve guessed it...the van was gone.

I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. How was I going to explain this to my sergeant? He wasn’t known for his tolerance and patience. We decided to drive once around the village before letting the control room know. It was 2:35am.

On a night shift you very rarely see other vehicles on the move. So as we turned in to Stonegate my hopes were raised as I saw headlights coming towards us.

The oncoming vehicle was travelling very, very, slowly and turned left in to Braybrook’s Yard. Sure enough, it was our stolen van! Simon positioned the police car to block the van in and I jumped out of the police car, ran up to the van and unceremoniously dragged the driver out of the cab. He was swearing colourfully in a broad East London accent. He was promptly arrested for theft of the van and handcuffed. At this he seemed to deflate, shrugged his shoulders and said: ‘Yeah, OK.’

Our latest prisoner was taken to Spalding. It was another quick ‘dump and run’ and by 4am we were back out to Cowbit to get the stolen van recovered before it disappeared again. As we entered Cowbit, our headlights caught a figure hitching a lift. We slowed down and pulled alongside.

The figure turned out to be a teenage boy. His face fell as he realised we were in a police car. He let out some very fruity swear words in a broad East London accent and turned to run. I was out of the car in a flash and caught hold of him.

He turned out to be 14-years-old and couldn’t explain how a boy from the East End had ended up on the side of the road in the Fens at four in the morning. He eventually admitted he had been dropped off and named the man I had arrested in the van. He was arrested for theft of the van as well.

Then it was back to the police station and time to write up my arrest statements for the handover files for CID in the morning. My own two prosecution files for drink/drive and damage would have to wait for later. It was coming up for 7am and I was due on again at 3pm.

As I left work, a milk float was returning to Pinchbeck dairy, the local postie was starting his round and Spalding was waking up to another Monday morning.