Flowers Laid in Memory of Three Murdered Policemen

Officers pay their respects on 45th anniversary of shocking crime

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Police officers and family members gathered to pay their respects and lay flowers at the place on the edge of Wormwood Scrubs where three officers were murdered in 1966.

At about 3.30pm on Friday, August, 12, 1966, three plain clothes police officers, all attached to Shepherd's Bush police station, stopped their unmarked car in Braybrook Street, close to Wormwood Scrubs Prison.

The three officers were Detective Sergeant Christopher Head, Detective Constable David Wombwell and PC Geoffrey Fox. They approached a battered blue Standard Vanguard Estate car with three suspects inside in Braybrook Street, and Christopher Head and David Wombwell questioned the

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 as well, whilst Duddy shot 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 three 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.

Public sympathy for the families of the victims resulted in the establishment of the Police Dependants' Trust  to assist the welfare of families of British police officers who have died or been incapacitated in the line of duty.

At 11am on August 12, flowers were laid at the scene of the shootings, now marked by a memorial, by the youngest serving police officer on duty, PC Ross McNamee. A one minute's silence took place in remembrance.

PC McNamee 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.

H&F Police Borough Commander, 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 45 years 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 45 years ago and my thoughts are with their families."

PC McNamee, who is 26, 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."

August 18, 2011