More than 100 police officers and staff will be taking part in the Police Unity Tour - a 180 mile two-day cycle challenge in aid of the police officers’ charity COPS (Care of Police Survivors) which stops off at Milton Keynes tomorrow.
The group, incuding Thames Valley Police Assistant Chief Constable for Neighbourhood Policing and Partnerships, Alan Baldwin, and Linda Waters, the Force’s Director of Finance, will cycle from the National Police Memorial in The Mall, central London, and stop off at the Holiday Inn in Central Milton Keynes at around 4pm tomorrow afternoon. The riders will then leave at 8am on Saturday and plan to stop at Towcester Police station at 10am.
They are due to arrive at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire on Sunday. The ride is due to arrive in time for the annual COPS memorial service attended by all chief constables and families of officers killed in the line of duty.
COPS raises funds for the families of those officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect their communities.
Each rider on the Police Unity Tour will wear an individual bracelet with a fallen officer’s name and police force, Linda Waters is riding in memory of Detective Constable Andrew Stokes of Greater Manchester Police, who died on January 3 2012 after collapsing on duty from heart failure.
ACC Baldwin is riding in memory of Thames Valley Police officer Detective Constable Ian Coward.
Det Con Ian Coward QPM (Gallantry) was a former Sonning Blue Coat schoolboy, who started his police career as a Police Cadet with Berkshire Constabulary and became a Police Constable in the village of Shinfield.
He then went on to CID in Woodley which was where he was working when he died. On the evening of Sunday June 27, 1971, aged 28 years, he was on duty during the Reading Pop Festival but was not part of the festival event. He was working a 12-hour shift and while travelling in an unmarked police car he observed a motor car being driven erratically and stopped it in the Kings Road, Reading.
The vehicle was stolen and was occupied by two men, both on parole from prison, Arthur ‘Billy’ Skingle and Peter Sparrow. Having checked their details, Det Con Coward returned to his vehicle to use the radio. When sat at the wheel of his car, Skingle appeared at the side window and shot him once in the head with a handgun, firing eight more bullets into his body at point blank range before fleeing leaving him severely injured.
Both men were later arrested.
Ian was taken to hospital and survived for a few weeks and subsequently died on Friday July 23 1971. He is buried at St Peter’s Church, Earley. His widow Gillian accepted the Queen’s Police Medal for Gallantry awarded posthumously on his behalf from the Queen in December 1971, one of only 27 awarded.
Both men were jailed at Oxford Assizes later that year when Skingle was told by Mr Justice Chapman: “In your case life will mean life.” Arthur ‘Billy’ Skingle was killed by a fellow prisoner in 1988. Peter Sparrow was later freed on licence following a parole application where Ian’s widow was consulted about any objections.
ACC Alan Baldwin said: “I am humbled and honoured to ride in support of COPS who are doing an incredible job in supporting the loved ones of fallen colleagues. Ian’s story is tragic and reminds us all, if we ever need reminding, of the extraordinary job done by our frontline officers and the risks they face day in day out. One moment of operational bravery can change lives forever. Any support you can give us would be warmly received and greatly appreciated.”
Linda Waters said: “I am proud to be able to show my support for the COPS charity, who provide support to those families who have suffered the ultimate loss in losing a member of their family whilst on police duty. Every tragic loss is a reminder of the dedication, commitment and loyalty all of our officers give on a day-to-day basis protecting our communities. I’d really appreciate any support you can give towards this worthy charity.”