Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Murdered Police remembered in East Acton ceremony

Last Friday was the anniversary of the murders of Detective  Sergeant Chris Head, PC Geoff Fox and PC David Wombwell who were  murdered in Braybrook Street W12 in 1966, and it was remembered in a small and often little known ceremony that takes place every year in this part of the Bush.

At 11am flowers were laid at the memorial by the youngest serving  police officer on duty, PC Ross McNamee. He was joined by Inspector  Ruald Coleman the duty inspector, Chief Superintendent Lucy D'Orsi, Borough Commander for Hammersmith & Fulham Police, Superintendent Peter  Clilverd and members of Chris Head's family, his brother in law and two  nephews.

A one minute's silence took place in remembrance.

One of the most traumatic murder cases in London occurred one summer  afternoon on 12th August 1966 when the crew of F 11 Q Car was cold-bloodedly murdered near Wormwood Scrubs prison.

The three officers were Detective Sergeant Christopher Head, Detective  Constable David Wombwell and PC Geoffrey Fox, all of whom were attached  to Shepherd's Bush police station. They approached a battered blue  Standard Vanguard Estate car with three suspects inside in Braybrook  Street, and Christopher Head and David Wombwell questioned the  occupants. The suspects were John Witney, owner of the car, John  Duddy, and the infamous Harry Roberts. It was Roberts who pulled out  a gun, and turned a routine police stop into a gruesome murder by  shooting David Wombwell. Roberts then pursued Christopher Head towards the police car and shot him also, whilst Duddy fired at and  killed Geoffrey Fox.

The three criminals raced away from the scene, and the biggest manhunt  for many years began. It had been the first time that three officers  had been murdered in one incident since three City of London officers had died in Houndsditch in the prelude to the Sidney Street siege of  1911, and the whole of the police service was shocked at the outrage.

Public reaction was no less intense, and there were many calls for the  re-introduction of the recently abolished death penalty for some types  of murder.

Fortunately the number of their car had been taken.

John Witney was the first to be arrested, having been traced through  his ownership of the car, and he admitted the involvement of Duddy and  Roberts. Duddy was traced to Scotland, but Roberts was on the run for  about 3 months before he was caught camping out in Hertfordshire.

Witney and Duddy have since died but Harry Roberts remains in prison  to this day for the crime. In the years that followed the murders followers of Millwall Football Club used to taunt Police with chants about how Harry Roberts was "their friend" for being a "cop killer".

Borough Commander for Hammersmith & Fulham Police, Chief  Superintendent Lucy D'Orsi said: 
"I think it is really important to  remember and make the time to remember officers who worked hard to  ensure the safety of Londoners 45years ago. Officers from Hammersmith  and Fulham are very proud of Detective Sergeant Chris Head, PC Geoff  Fox and PC David Wombwell and their families are enormously proud of  them. We are working very hard at this current time under difficult  circumstances to keep our local community safe and that is exactly what  these officers were doing 45years ago and my thoughts are with their families."
PC Ross McNamee from Hammersmith & Fulham, the youngest serving police  officer on duty today aged 26years said: 
"On my first day on duty at  Hammersmith & Fulham I was taken to see the memorial and was very  saddened to hear what had happened so it was a pleasure to have been  asked to attend today".
Cllr Greg Smith, H&F Council Cabinet Member for Residents' Services,  said: 
“The murders of three unarmed police officers in cold blood all  those years ago was one of the darkest days in this borough's history and it is fitting and proper that we remember them at the Braybrook  Street Memorial every year. The Police are the last line of defence  against the criminal underworld and the risk our local bobbies take  every day in putting themselves on the front-line to keep us safe  should not be underestimated."
We have seen last week, and in the times when terrorism has come to threaten our part of London and elsewhere, the extraordinary risks the emergency services take on our behalf. When I accompanied the Shepherd's Bush Safer Neighbourhood Team one Saturday night, sadly the first thing I had to do was don a stab vest. That was as I listened to a PCSO tell me about how a man he had been chasing the previous night had tossed a hand gun into a hedge as he ran away.

The murder of Bray Street is only marked small stone plaque which half the time is only half visible because the grass grows around it.  I first noticed it when I was training for the Brighton Marathon on the scrubs and went home to look up what it was about.

It stands there, as does the plaque to the officers who have fallen elsewhere, such as that dedicated to WPC Yvonne Fletcher what was killed outside the Libyan Embassy in the 1980s for example, as a reminder of what people who quietly get on and do extraordinary things on our behalves every day really are putting on the line. 


  1. Harry Roberts is our friend is our friend is our friend cos he kills coppers!


    1. Nice one Cyril.


  2. What idiots you two are, grow up. RIP the three of you.

  3. Rot in hell Harry Roberts!!!

  4. I remember this. I was 8. I recall getting closer Han I should have been allowed too an looking in the car at a dead detective slumped over he steering wheel. A cop pulled me away from car. We had police going door to door asking questions in the area. I remember telling the cop I heard two shots. Funny the things you remover 46 years later.