On the morning of September 18, 2012 Police constables Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone were on a routine patrol when the call came in that a burglary had occurred at an address in Longdendale, near Hyde, Greater Manchester.
The result of a 999 emergency call, what Hughes and Bone could never have predicted was that the call was the work of Dale Cregan, the criminal lying in wait for their arrival with a Glock pistol and M75 hand grenade.
The subsequent deaths of the two officers sent shockwaves across the country and, while Cregan soon turned himself in, it served to highlight what Rav Wilding describes as “unpredictability” of life in the police.
A former policeman turned television presenter, Wilding admitted to loaded that, in the majority of cases “you just don’t know what you, as a police officer, are walking into.”
Wilding is keen to shed more light on the risks faced by officers with new show British Police Murdered On Duty highlighting the senseless tragedy that can occur in the line of duty.
Ahead of the new series, he sat down with loaded to discuss the dangers of modern policing.
loaded: Just how dangerous a job is being policeman?
Wilding: It’s certainly a dangerous job but what makes it worse is the sheer unpredictability of it from day to day – you literally don’t know what you are going into.
It could be a situation that seems pretty normal but things can escalate into something which, these days, that can be fatal. It can be a scary job.
loaded: Did you ever find yourself in any dangerous situations during your time on force?
Wilding: I still remember a time when we had a call about some kids causing trouble in a park. I turned up just expecting to just move them on but out of nowhere we just got completely ambushed by loads of teenagers with baseball bats, planks of wood and all sorts. Just from nothing, absolutely nothing, it spiralled into this massive attack.
That’s what this show is about – officers who were all unarmed just approaching a subject to find out more and have ended up being killed – that’s the unpredictability of modern policing.
In my time, I’ve had knifes pulled on me, baseball bats, I’ve treated gun shot wounds. I’ve even had missiles thrown at me from a great height.
loaded: Do you think the public is aware of the dangers these officers face every day?
Wilding: No, people don’t realise. They don’t realise that, for your average policeman you genuinely never know if your next call is going to be your last. 99 out of 100 policemen are called on by strangers in need of help.
“for your average policeman you genuinely never know if your next call is going to be your last”
You don’t know these people most of the time, you are going to assist them and you don’t know what is going to happen.
loaded: Should the public view of the police therefore be a more positive one?
Wilding: I would certainly like to see them viewed in a more positive light.
It’s a shame when you see such negativity towards the police because they are there to lock up people that do wrong and help people that need it and that’s what the police are.
Young people need to see the more human side of the police force, that they are the good guys, rather than just the people that look criminals up for doing wrong.
loaded: Do the police need more protection?
Wilding: The police certainly have more protection than they used to. On the show, we look at The Shepherd’s Bush murders from back in 1966. which saw three unarmed police officers ambushed and killed during a routine roadside stop.
The case prompted a review in police safety and the findings were astonishing. It was revealed that the three officers had one radio between them, no handcuffs, no batons, no CS spray and no firearms.
Things changed as a direct result of that case and in the years since things have definitely improved. These days, officers are in a much better position to protect themselves with things like Tasers but it will never be a completely safe job because what the job is.
loaded: What is the modern policeman’s best weapon against crime?
Wilding: It depends on the situation you are dealing with but the general view seems to be that the Taser is a fantastic option to have – thought not necessarily use.
The feedback I’ve had is that it’s useful when going into really hostile situations – say if someone is armed with an axe. If an officer pulls out a Taser and that red dot appears on the assailant’s chest, nine times out of ten they drop the weapon and give up. It’s been a great addition that keeps police and the public safe.
loaded: What bit of advice, if any, could you offer from your days dealing with criminals on the force?
Wilding: One of the greatest tools I had was just talking to someone at a normal volume. If someone is screaming and shouting and you respond in a calm voice, seven or eight times out of ten they stop shouting to say ‘what?’
It brings it down a few levels – it’s not all about shouting and fighting fire with fire. Violence and physical force is always much later. Always try these things first. Talking should always be favoured ahead of brute force.
British Police Murdered on Duty starts on Friday 11th November at 10pm on Investigation Discovery, Sky 522, Virgin 253 and BT 324.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.