An officer whose investigation saw the conviction of a dangerous sexual predator, members of the public whose brave actions saved a life and a cross force effort to bring the murderer of Andre Gayle to justice were among those recognised at the Avon and Somerset Force Awards ceremony in May.
Award winners were celebrated for their efforts at a ceremony at the Police Headquarters on Tuesday 10 May, which was attended by Deputy Chief Constable Nikki Watson, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford, and High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, Sir Dusty Miller KBE.
Deputy Chief Constable Nikki Watson said: “Sir Robert Peel, who invented modern policing, had a number of principles and one of them was ‘that police are the community, and the community are the police’, and we are reflecting that today.
“The award winners are extremely impressive, and we have heard about the fabulous work of officers, staff, fire and ambulance but also importantly, members of the community, who are not paid, but have stood up and have done amazing things.
“We will hear of extraordinary stories of courage, bravery, of dedication to service and all of the events that have taken place have been in support of our communities and that is why we are here, to serve our communities.”
Award winners are listed below (some have requested not to be named):
Crown Court Commendation
Awarded by the Crown Court for significant personal courage or significant commitment in the execution of duty, above and beyond what should normally be expected.
DC Kimberley O’Donnell
DC Kimberley O’Donnell, along with a colleague from the CPS, were recognised for their efforts in an investigation regarding child sexual exploitation.
The investigation saw almost 90 electronic devices seized and examined over the course of the two-year-long investigation. The work of DC O’Donnell and the team resulted in five offenders receiving a combined sentence of nearly 22 years.
His High Justice Picton said: “This was an exceptionally difficult case, both to investigate and present to a court. DC O’Donnell worked tirelessly with the CPS in their respective roles in this operation.”
PC Alexander Redhead
In October and November 2019, a suspect was alleged to have viciously attacked three members of the public in separate knife attacks. Following the final attack, the suspect was detained.
PC Alexander Redhead was among the Local Policing Team to be dispatched to the most recent 999 call and supported two officers in the foot chase for the suspect. Their efforts resulted in the offender being arrested and later charged and found guilty by a jury for attempted murder, wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and a weapons offence. He received life imprisonment.
DSI James Riccio said: “The quick, diligent and brave actions of all the officers resulted in a very dangerous man being taken off the streets of Bristol.
“It is always a pleasure to be able to commend high quality, fair and brave police work of the kind demonstrated in this serious case.”
DS Ian Poots
DS Ian Poots was investigating a series of kidnappings by a man who was posing as a taxi driver and abducting and assaulting women.
His Honour Judge Horton said: “This was a very complicated and detailed enquiry which required considerable skills and perseverance to put together CCTV evident to identify the defendant’s conduct.”
DS Poots’ efforts and victim care allowed a dangerous sexual predator to be convicted.
DS Poots said: “It is really nice to get this recognition. It was a very challenging case, and I am pleased to get the result for the victims.”
DC Neil Wood
DC Neil Wood led on a complex non-recent sexual offences investigation which involved several parties.
During the investigation, DC Wood conducted several video interviews, both with victims and suspects, and went through vast amounts of evidence, all while supporting the victims through the lengthy investigation.
His High Judge Horton praised DC Wood for his efforts, saying: “One need only read the victim impact statements to understand the support felt by the victims throughout the process including the court process.”
The offenders received a combined custodial sentence of more than 29 years.
Chief Constable’s Commendation
For significant personal courage or significant initiative and/or commitment in the execution of duty far and beyond what should normally be expected.
DS Leon Swaby, Major Crime Investigation Officer Deborah Sek, Visual Investigation Supervisor Lorraine Wood, Intelligence Analyst Joann Hill, Intelligence Manager Alesia Baulk
A team of nine officers and police staff were involved in the huge operation investigating the murder of Andre Gayle, which took place on 31 August 2020 in Bristol.
It was the largest murder investigation the Major Crime Investigation Team had dealt with in over a decade.
The investigation involved every team across the MCIT, including staff in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, with more than 100 people from MCIT along working on the case in the first few weeks.
Four people were handed life sentences with minimum terms for the murder.
Sgt Aqil Farooq
Sgt Aqil Farooq has been involved with Avon and Somerset Black Police Association for more than 20 years, covering multiple roles including general secretary, deputy chair and chair.
Under his leadership, Aqil has supported and guided chief officers, directorates and community partnerships to address the challenging issues of recruitment, retention and public confidence.
He has helped to contribute and deliver a remarkable 25% increase of an underrepresented workforce since 2015, while retaining an equal number of staff through his positive interventions.
He has achieved all of this while remaining operational, working shifts, managing teams and bringing up a young family.
Louise Hutchinson, Director of People and Organisational Development, said: “Aqil has admirably chosen to serve at all the main police stations to help bring long term solutions to recurring matters involving race, faith and youth. He has made a significant difference locally, regionally and nationally, both in and out of the service.”
Royal Humane Society Award
A national award for acts of bravery while saving human life, or in attempt to do so.
Paramedics Holly Abraham and Natasha Jacobs
In February 2020, paramedics Holly Abraham and Natasha Jacobs attended a scene following reports an individual in distress in Bristol.
The paramedics spent more than 30 minutes building a rapport with the individual, putting themselves in harm’s way to make physical contact.
Investigative Trainer Mark Leach
Mark Leach had been travelling with his family near Highbridge, in Somerset, in July 2021 when he stopped to engage with a man in distress.
Mark managed to build a rapport with the man until officers arrived, and the man received support.
Member of the public, Angus Massey, came to the aid of a woman near Bridgwater and carried out actions which ultimately saved the woman’s life.
He acted with no regard for his own safety and put himself in danger.
In February 2021, then 17-year-old Natalio discovered a woman in distress in Yate. Without thought for his own safety, Natalio helped the female get to safety and stayed with her until emergency services arrived.
Natalio said: “It is an honour to receive this award and it makes you feel you have made a difference.”
PC Phillip Bagg
In January 2021, police were called by a member of the public that a woman was struggling in a river in Taunton.
PC Phillip Bagg, who is a qualified police medic, was the first on the scene and entered the freezing water to help the woman. PC Bagg pulled her to shore and began CPR until the ambulance crew arrived.
Chief Superintendent Elizabeth Hughes said: “Despite the extreme weather and being soaked through, PC Bagg continued to assist the ambulance crew and the victim was transported to hospital. Sadly, despite PC Bagg’s courageous and selfless actions, the female did not survive and passed away the following day, but his actions gave her the best possible chance.”
PC Bagg was presented with two Royal Humane Society Awards for his selfless and caring actions.
Members of the public Graham Wallis and a colleague were working in Bristol when they assisted a man.
For their life-saving actions, the pair were presented with a Royal Humane Society Award by the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, Sir Dusty Miller KBE.
PC Anne Jones
In July 2020, PC Anne Jones was part of a team who attended the scene of a serious road traffic collision involving a motorcycle and a car. The officers worked hard to triage the scene and care for the injured parties.
The ambulance crew who attended the scene said ‘the injured parties could have died at the scene if the officers had not taken the actions they did’.
They added: “All of the officers triaged and managed the injured parties incredibly well, considering the traumatic nature of the crash.”
An award to members of the public who assist the police in the execution of their duty or who perform meritorious acts in the pursuit of law and order.
Robert Kiely had been driving in Keynsham when he spotted an officer in pursuit of a man on foot.
Robert offered the police constable a lift further up the road, before stopping the vehicle next to where the man was standing. This allowed the officer to arrest the man.
Mr Kiely then stayed with the officer to ensure everyone was safe and provided further assistance. He also checked on the welfare of the other officers involved.
Chief Superintendent Elizabeth Hughes praised him for his ‘selfless actions’. She added: “Without Robert’s support, the man may have avoided being detained for the incident, as his personal details were not known prior to being arrested.”
Firefighter Jon Parker
On 6 March, firefighter Jon Parker drove past a man who was in crisis. Jon got out of his vehicle and approached the man. Following an altercation, Jon flagged police officers to help them man.
Chief Superintendent Elizabeth Hughes said: “Jon’s brave actions meant no-one was hurt and the man got the help he needed. For his courage and caring actions, it is my pleasure to award Jon the Waley-Cohen Award.”
Jon said: “As an on-call firefighter I am used to responding to incidents at a moment’s notice. Which is why I was so shocked to have received the Waley-Cohen Award, for me it was just another time that I dealt with a situation that was thrown at me.
“It’s a pleasure to be recognised and awarded for my actions at the ceremony alongside so many other brave and selfless people.”