b. 02/11/1932 Blackpool, Lancashire. d. 23/08/1971 Blackpool, Lancashire.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 23/08/1971 Blackpool, Lancashire.
Gerald Irving “Gerry” Richardson (1932-1971) was born on 2nd November 1932 in Norbreck, Blackpool, Lancashire, the only son and one of two children of Irving and Lilian Richardson (nee Pugh). He had a sister Judith. His father worked as a painter and decorator, and Gerald excelled at academia and passed his 11+ and attended Blackpool Grammar School. At the age of 17, he chose to join the Police Force, and became a Cadet in the Blackpool Borough. In February 1951 he was called up for National Service, and completed his two years, serving in the Royal Military Police. He was demobbed on 15th February 1953.
Gerry returned to the Police Force and was appointed to Blackpool Borough Police on 14th March 1953. He was rapidly promoted and would reach the rank of Superintendent by 1968. He married Maureen Collum in 1956, and was commended for his police work on three separate occasions, and was awarded a testimonial by the Royal Humane Society for rescuing a man from the sea. He was always seen to “lead from the front”. When, in 1969, the Blackpool Borough Police was amalgamated with the Lancashire Constabulary he took command of the Blackpool Central Sub-District. He took an active part in his local community being a member of the Rotary Club and was instrumental in setting up a youth training centre in the Lake District called Snow’s Heights.
On 23rd August 1971, a gang of five men led by “Fat” Fred Sewell robbed a jeweller’s shop in Blackpool. Constable Carl Walker, having been directed to the scene by radio, arrived to see the bandits running towards a Triumph car. All the men got into the car and a shotgun was pointed at Walker; as the car drove away, Walker followed in his car. A high-speed chase then ensued; at several stages Walker briefly lost contact with the Triumph but then came upon it stationary in a blind alley. All the occupants were out of the car; Walker remained in his car, which he parked at right angles to the alley, thus blocking the exit. The men then climbed back into their car, which reversed at speed down the alley into the side of Walker’s car, pushing it out of the way. As the car drove away, Constable Ian Hampson arrived at the scene in his car. He saw Walker sitting in his car, in a state of shock, and followed the Triumph. The bandits’ car was driven in a fast and dangerous manner through the streets and Hampson during the whole time remained 5-10 yards behind it relaying his position.
The Triumph then screeched to a halt and Hampson pulled up about 5yds behind it. One of the gunmen ran back to the police car and shot Hampson. The constable, who was badly wounded to the chest, fell from the car into the road but managed to reach the radio and give his position. A number of cars were in the area, and Constable Walker rejoined the chase and with the help of Constables Jackson and Hillis they trapped the Triumph. All the gunmen jumped out and the driver threatened Jackson with his pistol and then ran towards an alley to the next street. Hillis got out of the car and followed them; the driver pointed his pistol and fired two or three shots from only 6ft away, but did not hit him. As one of the robbers ran away, Hillis ran after him and grabbed him. In the meantime, another police car had arrived with Inspector Edward Gray, Inspector Stephen Radpath and Superintendent Gerald Richardson. Radpath jumped out and chased three of the gunmen while Gray and Richardson drove into the next street to head them off. They caught up with the men and Richardson tried to wrestle the gun out of the robbers’ hand. He was shot twice in the stomach at close range and died later in hospital. The men were eventually arrested through the combined efforts of Sergeant Mackay and Constable Hanley along with Radpath, Walker, Hillis and Jackson. Hampson, Hillis, Jackson and Mackay were awarded the George Medal, Gray and Hanley were awarded the BEM.
Gerry Richardson was posthumously awarded the George Cross on 13th November 1972. Constable Carl Walker was also cited for the George Cross for his part in the apprehension of the robbers. At his funeral on the 26th August at St John’s Church in Blackpool, over 100,000 people are said to have attended and lined the streets. 400 policemen attended the service, and another 300 followed the hearse, to Layton Cemetery, where he was laid to rest. He was, and still is, the highest ranking police officer killed in the line of duty.
The five armed robbers were all convicted and sentenced to a combined total of 93 years in prison, including Sewell who escaped after the shooting but was tracked down to a north London flat and jailed for 30 years for murder. Sewell said of Richardson at his trial: “I shall see him every day of my life. He just kept coming. He was too brave.” Sewell was released in 2001, when aged 68, after completing his sentence and reportedly having amassed a wealth of around £1 million through property deals made in prison.
In 1972, Gerry Richardson was also awarded the William Garnett Cup, an annual award for the bravest act in the Force. He was also awarded the Medal of the American Federation of Police, a private organisation and charity which runs the American Police Hall of Fame in Florida including a memorial to all officers killed on duty since 1960. At Blackpool Grammar School, a memorial plaque was placed in his honour. The biggest memorial to him has been the Superintendent Gerry Richardson Memorial Youth Trust, a registered charity, which using Snow’s Heights, to help disaffected young people at risk of criminalisation. Gerry’s GC was placed on loan to the Imperial War Museum, where it is displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: LAYTON CEMETERY, BLACKPOOL, LANCASHIRE.
Kevin Brazier – Image of the Richardson GC Grave in Layton Cemetery, Blackpool.