Chief Constable’s pledge as he pays tribute to Blackpool officer shot dead 45 years ago

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Police chief Steve Finnigan pledged his officers will do everything to stop criminals in the resort, as he paid tribute to the bravery of a heroic officer killed in service 45 years ago.

Chf Con Finnigan was present at the unveiling of a stone to commemorate 45 years since brave Superintendent Gerald Richardson was shot dead as he tried to tackle a gang of robbers in the resort.

And he said his officers today still knew the dangers they faced.

He said: “This commemoration will reinforce for younger police officers in Lancashire Constabulary, who weren’t even born when Superintendent Richardson was murdered, that policing has always been a dangerous profession and we do ask police officers to put themselves in danger.

“When you think of our mission, which is to keep people safe from harm, especially the most vulnerable, that will inevitably mean you will get into some difficult and dangerous situations.

“We need to work hard to offer our staff the right equipment and training so they can try to keep themselves safe.

“We have invested heavily in trying to protect our officers, we have body armour, tasers and pava sprays.

“We can never say what happened to Supt Richardson will never happen again, we can only pray that it won’t and provide the right sort of training and equipment.

“Police officers will always do brave things and put themselves in danger, even if their training says ‘don’t do that’.

“In the heat of the moment they will do what needs doing.”

The Chief Constable added: “Thankfully police officers paying the ultimate price is a rare occurrence but because police officers walk towards danger, not away from it, regrettably these things do happen.”

The commemoration to Supt Richardson has been created in the grounds of Aspire Academy which is on the site of the former Blackpool Grammar School where he was a pupil.

He was murdered on August 23 1971 after police were called to a robbery at Preston’s Jewellers in The Strand, Blackpool.

As the police gave chase to the five-man gang, one of the robbers, Freddie Sewell, sprayed the street with bullets, wounding two constables.

Supt Richardson pursued Sewell into an alley where he was shot twice at point-blank range, and died later the same morning, aged 38.

He is the highest-ranking police officer to be killed in the line of duty.

When his funeral was held, it brought Blackpool to a standstill with tens of thousands of people filling the streets to pay their respects.

He was posthumously awarded the George Cross for bravery.

In 1974, the Supt Gerald Richardson Memorial Youth Trust was set up in his memory and over the years has handed out grants of more than £250,000 to young people.

Meanwhile over the last two years the Superintendents Association in Lancashire has recognised exemplary performance by handing out its own accolade in memory of Supt Richardson.

His widow Maureen, who unveiled the plaque, said: “It always seems just like yesterday that it happened. It is so very clear.

“I just want Gerry to be remembered for what he did, he deserves that.

“Blackpool Grammar Memorial Trust came up with the idea for this wonderful commemoration and today has been a lovely occasion.

“They invited members of the Youth Trust to come along as well, and it is wonderful to see how many young people that has helped.

“Activities for children is something Gerry always supported.

“It is sad to hear whenever a police officer is killed in the line of duty.

“The young PC who was killed recently in Liverpool was particularly poignant because, like for Gerry, the people all turned out for him and filled the streets for his funeral.

“Police officers take those risks and never think it is going to happen to them.

“But they have to be brave, there is no choice.

“Sometimes the bravest people are those who are frightened but still go into help.”

High Sheriff of Lancashire John Barnett, who was among the guests at the unveiling, said: “I am a Blackpool lad and I remember well that time when Gerald Richardson was killed. I was 21 at the time, and I think many people will remember that day.

“And they will remember the incredible community support when thousands and thousands of people turned out for the funeral.

“So for me to be here today is a phenomenal honour.”

Last night a fundraising dinner was also held by the Supt Gerald Richardson Memorial Youth Trust.