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Brian 'Bill' John Bishop

Brian 'Bill' John Bishop

Served with Essex County Constabulary from August 11, 1966 and died on August 27, 1984.

Acting Police Sergeant Brian 'Bill' Bishop was born on July 24th 1947 and joined the former Essex Constabulary as a fifteen year old cadet. Whilst a cadet the dog handlers gave him the nickname of `Bill', this was due to his hair `a bit thin on top but long and wavy at the back', which reminded them of `Wild Bill' Hickock.

Bill Bishop was attested as Police Constable 389 on August 11th, 1966, and was posted to Colchester. Two years later he joined the Dog Section as a handler. In 1975 he joined the Force Support Unit and subsequently became a firearms instructor. At 6' 7" tall he was known as `The Gentle Giant'.

On Wednesday August 22nd 1984, with other officers, he was called to Central Avenue, Frinton, a short distance from the seafront. This call followed on from reports that earlier in the day a man had robbed two post offices, one in Walton and another in Frinton. It was also known that he had hidden his haul of several thousand pounds alongside a railway embankment. The wanted man had held up the Post Office staff with a sawn-off shotgun and forced them to hand over money before escaping on a motor cycle.

Following the first raid he had been stopped and questioned by police as he fitted the description of the wanted man. He was then taken to his mother's house as she lived nearby. She gave him an alibi and said that he had been at home all afternoon. He was then released to commit the second raid. Meanwhile, police had kept watch on the site where the cash had been hidden. Finally the robber approached carrying what appeared to be just a carrier bag.

Bill Bishop shouted at him `Armed Police. Stop!' at which the robber lifted the carrier bag, which concealed a gun, and shot him in the head. Police Sergeant Mervyn Fairweather was shot in the groin. Another colleague then fired at the gunman, hitting him in the back and side. Bill Bishop died five days later in Saint Bartholomew's Hospital in London. A thirty five year-old Brentwood man was arrested at the scene but, because of injuries he had sustained, he was detained under guard in Colchester hospital and later charged with murder.

On Friday 19th July 1985 he appeared at Norwich Crown Court, sitting in a wheelchair as he was paralysed from the waist down. He was charged with Bill Bishop's murder and the attempted murder of Police Sergeant Fairweather. He denied both charges. The jury found him guilty of Bill Bishop's murder. They found him not guilty of attempting to murder Police Sergeant Fairweather, but guilty of wounding him. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and the judge commented that he would have recommended a minimum of twenty years in gaol had his injuries not reduced his danger to society. Mr. Justice Boreham also praised the bravery of the officers who had been with Bill Bishop when confronted by the robber and went on to say `I only wish Bill Bishop was here to hear the commendation'.

Bill Bishop Memorial StoneOn Wednesday 19th February 1986, the then Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd unveiled a brown granite memorial stone, adjacent to the seafront site where Bill Bishop fell. It was funded by the Police Memorial Trust, set up in 1984 following the death of Women Police Constable Yvonne Fletcher in St. James Square in London, and was the brainchild of film director Michael Winner. The aim of the Trust is to erect memorials to police officers killed in the course of their hazardous duty, on the spot where they met their death, thereby acting as a permanent reminder to the public they serve, of their sacrifice. 

Bill Bishop's memorial was only the third to be funded and erected by the Trust, and the first outside London. A Guard of Honour was provided by colleagues from the Force Support Unit and despite snow flurries and a chilling wind several hundred members of the public attended the unveiling ceremony. In attendance was his widow Sue, a former policewoman, their ten year old son David and Bill's parents. They laid floral tributes. Mr. Hurd laid a spray of flowers.

As the ceremony came to a close Police Sergeant Fairweather marched alone to the memorial, saluted and marched off, a fitting tribute from a man injured when his colleague received fatal injuries. A small wrought iron fence has since been erected around the memorial by the local council and a garden dug inside. School children have planted spring bulbs along the green beside it. In Walton on the Naze the council have called a road on a new housing estate 'Brian Bishop Close'. A Walnut Tree was planted at Sandon Dog Unit and dedicated in Bill Bishop's honour during 1984. By 1999 the tree was in the region of thirty feet tall. 

This article was based on the text of Essex Police's History Notebook Number 28 'A Gentle Giant', written by Bill Bishop's widow Susan in 1997.

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