Memorial to 'old boy' killed in line of duty

A LASTING memorial to one of Blackpool's most decorated police officers is to be unveiled at an emotional ceremony.

Supt Gerry Richardson, 38, was shot at point-blank range after a raid on a jewellery shop in the town on August 23, 1971.

A five-man gang from London, led by "Fat" Freddie Sewell, bungled their robbery of Preston's Jewellers in The Strand. They arrived late and instead of a calm, targeted raid, they were reduced to running around the shop trying to cram jewels in a bag.

And in the haste they didn't check the back room where the shop manager sat, having already pressed a silent alarm connected directly to Blackpool Police Station.

As the gang raced for their get-away car the police were on their way.

Sewell sprayed the street with bullets as police gave chase, wounding two officers. An officer who followed the gang down a dead-end was blasted in the thigh before Supt Richardson stepped forward.

He grabbed Sewell by the throat and as the pair grappled the officer calmly said: "Don't be silly, lad, put the gun down."

But Sewell turned the gun on Supt Richardson and shot him in the stomach at point-blank range.

He died later in hospital as the highest ranking officer ever to be killed on duty.

A nationwide hunt ended when Sewell was found in a seedy north London bedsit and he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Other members of his gang were handed sentences from 10 to 25 years.

The headstone on his grave is inscribed with the words: "Good men must die for the cause of justice and the law, but death cannot kill their names."

Supt Richardson was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his bravery and now, 32 years on, Gerry's former school, Collegiate High, is to unveil a plaque to commemorate his efforts in the school's Memorial Room on Wednesday.

The Meliora website – which takes its name from the school motto Meliora Sequamur -– was launched in 1998 and carries records and photographs of former pupils from the early 20th Century to today.

The plaque was the brainchild of a website dedicated to former pupils of the school who decided to place the memorial in the original oak panelled room which was transferred to the new grammar school building in 1961.

Martin Wilson, spokesman for the website, said: "I think it is important to have a lasting memorial to a man who gave his life in the line of duty.

"It's just a reminder that we have to give respect back on to the agenda and the memorial will stand as a testament to that. There are going to be a number of ex-class mates of Gerry's turning up from all over the country who want to be there for the ceremony. I'm sure it will be a fitting tribute."

Blackpool's top police officer, Chief Supt Mike Cunningham, will be attending the ceremony along with Supt Richardson's widow, Maureen and deputy mayor Coun Granville Heap.

Since his death, a trust fund has been set up in his memory which has helped thousands of youngsters realise a sporting dream.

The Supt Gerald Richardson Memorial Youth Trust was established in 1978 and has so far handed out 110,000 in bursaries to over 10,000 children throughout the North West.