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Tears and laughter as fallen police officers remembered

THERE was emotion and humour as police officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice were remembered by their family and friends at the Care of Police Survivors (COPS) Annual Service of Remembrance.

Surviving family members and serving police officers gathered at the National Memorial Arboretum on Sunday July 26 to pay respects to officers who have died on duty. The service in Staffordshire - not dampened by constant rain - was attended by more than 700 people.

Events took place all weekend for surviving family members. They were attending the biggest ever COPS weekend. The charity now has more than 300 survivors, the event heard.

During the 70 minute service on Sunday, survivors - a father, a sister, a son and a wife - recalled their loss and how the charity had helped them in their time of need.

Harri Jones, son of PC Stanley Jones, of Surrey Police, was nine years old when his father died on duty. "Care of Police Survivors became mum's lifeline offering her endless support and encouragement on days when she felt she could not go on," he told the service.

He described how COPS - and coming to a Survivors Weekend - had helped him make "friends - or should I say family - for life." And he recalled how he recently went on his first "lad's holiday" with a fellow survivor. "I hope my old man wasn't looking down on us too well," he joked.

Harri concluded: "We in turn now offer support and encouragement to the younger children who have found themselves part of the COPS family. COPS was there when we needed them most and you were there to help us rebuild our shattered lives."

The Roll of Honour for the five police officers and one member of staff who died on duty during the last 12 months was read out by COPS' President Denis Gunn.

Those remembered this year were PC Neil Doyle, of Merseyside Police, PC David Arthur, The Met, PC Jonathan Relph, The Met, PC Kevin Stoodley, Avon and Somerset Constabulary, PC Russ Wylie, Humberside Police.

There were also mentions of Daniel Woodall - a former Greater Manchester Police officer who was killed as a member of the Edmonton Police Service in Canada.

In the presence of their families, Timothy Mitchell, a Californian police officer, and Gregg Benner, A New Mexican police officer, were also remembered prior to a minute's silence.

Sir Keith Povey, Patron of the Charity, said: "The primary objective of COPS is to help surviving families rebuild their shattered lives after the tragic loss of as officer in an on duty death.

""The charity provides help and support wherever possible to help those survivors cope with that tragedy but also to ensure that they remain a member of the police family.".

"Whilst I know survivors value the bonds that are formed, I also know that you need to remain a member of the police family. And that is why it is so important to see so many of the force representatives here." Chief officers from all UK forces, the Home Office and staff associations were amongst those that took time to pay their respects and lay wreaths. "Your presence is valued immensely by survivors," added Sir Keith.

The West Midlands Police band and a lone piper provided accompanying music. There was laughter and applause when a speaker poked fun at Chief Constables getting soaked laying their wreaths.

Prior to the service, The Blue Knights motorcyclists arrived in procession to pay their respects, they were also joined by officers on more than 100 UK Police Unity Tour cyclists who had ridden up in convoy from London - and were joined from others across the country.

The cyclists had raised an amazing £75,000 for the charity.

Addressing the service was Don Speakman, whose son PC Jonathan Speakman, of Cheshire Police, died on holiday in Australia after rescuing a child swept out to sea. He described his son as a practical joker and his best friend.

Don said: "It's ten years since Jonathan died. It was important for me to get the right balance of laughter and tears, and I think I did that. And I managed to get through it." He added: "I didn't get involved in COPS for two years after Jonathan's death, because being a typical ex-policeman I thought I could deal with it. This organisation is tremendous. "The peer support you get is absolutely wonderful.

"Everybody comes to a weekend like this knowing that all the people around you are all in the same boat, in one way or another, and therefore you don't have to explain anything to anybody, you don't have to be apologetic or anything like that, you just be yourself and you know there are people there to support you."

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