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Life-saving actions and exceptional investigations: celebrating everyday heroes in South Devon

SA Updated
Life-saving actions and exceptional investigations: celebrating everyday heroes in South Devon

Uniformed officers and members of staff from Devon and Cornwall Police and two members of the public, have been recognised for their "extraordinary achievements for their roles in keeping local communities safe" in South Devon. 

​Over twenty people received bravery and commendation awards from the Police. They were honoured for their selflessness and commitment, sharing stories of great bravery in handling high-risk missing person cases, their quick thinking to save people’s lives, and achieving positive results in complex investigations.

A selection of those who received awards include:

Members of the public locate missing person: David White and Helen

Supt Hayley Costar presenting award to David White

In June 2023, there was a report of a high-risk missing man who was in a suicidal state. It was reported that the man had left his home and fled to a wooded area in South Brent.

A police helicopter was deployed to assist with the search to locate the missing man. Local residents David and Helen saw the helicopter passing above their home and decided to see if they could help with the search. They began a search of the local area and later located the man 15-foot up a tree with a rope around his neck.

Whilst this was a really distressing situation, the couple spent time speaking with the man, until police negotiators and emergency services arrived on scene. David remained there for a number of hours until the man had come safety down from the tree and he was safe with local officers. David and Helen’s quick thinking and empathy undoubtedly saved the life of this vulnerable young man.

High-risk missing woman with dementia located by officers: Police Constables Cameron Allen, Charles Allen, Benjamin Bowen, Sophie Fletcher, Bradley Garnett, Abi Kelly, Shane Larkin, Fliss Mansbridge, Samuel McGregor, George Miller, Samuel Miller, Kieran Mudd, Police Sergeant Ian Lowe, Resource & Incident Management Officer Chloe Webber and Police Dog Enzo

In June 2023, an elderly woman with dementia was reported to police in South Devon as a high-risk missing person. What followed was an exceptional piece of teamwork from police officers and staff from the police control room to locate the vulnerable missing woman.

Chloe Webber, a control room operator, was instrumental in gathering important information about the missing woman to help the team with their search; this included details including her habits and routines; she also secured additional resources to help police officers on the ground, including help from the National Police Air Service (NPAS) who assisted in the skies, and help from Enzo the police dog who helped officers on the ground.

While the search was ongoing, officers located a footprint which looked like that of a woman’s and narrowed their search to a wooded area in Dartmouth. Enzo successfully picked up a scent and followed a track towards a river, where they found the women partially in the river – unfortunately, it was likely that she had been there for hours.

The team quickly freed the woman, bringing her to safety. They began their precarious journey on-foot back to the emergency vehicles, facing many challenges due to the difficult terrain and darkness.

The teamwork of the police teams was exemplary, proving that without their dedication and determination the woman may not have been saved. The woman received the medical care she needed and was safely reunited with her family.

Member of the public saves man from jumping on train track: Derek Saunders

Whilst walking his dog in Torquay, local resident Derek came across a woman who was in a suicidal state and was trying to jump over a high fence onto a trainline.

Acting quickly, he managed to reach out to the woman and was able to bring her back safely onto the pavement. Derek sat with the distressed woman, reassuring her until the emergency services arrived to help. Derek has been awarded for his quick thinking and bravery, ultimately saving a life.

Officer helps fraud victim get £20,000 back: PC Barnaby Geary

Chief Supt Roy Linden presenting award to PC Geary

PC Geary supported a local investigation into a number of fraud reports which were linked to an Organised Crime Group (OCG) that operated across the UK. He gathered key evidence from a vulnerable woman who had been victim to a fraud, unfortunately transferring her life savings from her deceased husband’s pension to the OCG, which totalled over £20,000.

With the support of PC Geary, the woman bravely agreed to take part in Crime Watch UK as part of a national appeal to raise awareness of money fraud and show how easy it is to fall victim.

As a result of PC Geary’s determination to help the woman get her money back from the bank, she received a full refund of the savings she had lost. This had an incredibly positive impact on the woman in what could have had a devastating effect on the rest of her life. This investigation formed part of a national fraud investigation into the OCG and is being managed by the Metropolitan Police with assistance from the Covert Authorities Bureau. Investigations into the OCG are ongoing.


Positive outcome in rape investigation: Detective Constable  James Kelly

Chief Supt Roy Linden presenting award to DC Kelly

DC James Kelly took part in an investigation looking into sexual offences committed against a thirteen-year-old girl by her mother's partner.

Initially, the girl declined to support the investigation due to lack of confidence, however, after nine months of DC Kelly working with the vulnerable young victim, helping her to build trust and confidence in the police and the process, she felt able to provide a statement which disclosed multiple rape offences against her.

Subsequently, as part of the wider investigation, DC Kelly uncovered a historical report for rape against the same suspect which dated back to 1994.

As part of the complex investigation, DC Kelly also identified a third victim who previously believed she and the suspect were in a relationship, despite only being aged thirteen at the time.

DC Kelly worked with all of the females involved, ensuring they all felt supported throughout the investigation.

At the trial, the suspect was sentenced to twenty-nine years imprisonment.

DC Kelly was commended for his commitment, professionalism and dedication into this very complex investigation.


Successful investigation into a young drug dealer: PC Charlie Haggerty and PC Gilbrook

Supt Hayley Costar presenting award to PC Haggerty

To tackle drugs and safeguard local children in South Devon, PC Haggerty and PC Gilbrook investigated intelligence received from the public about a seventeen-year-old boy who was suspected of dealing drugs and exploiting local children into selling and buying illegal substances.

After a thorough investigation into the boy about the suspected drug dealing, the officers secured a search warrant for his address. During the search, they successfully seized approximately nine kilograms of class A drugs, £10,000 in cash and other high-value items.

As part of PC Haggerty and PC Gilbrook persistent and detailed investigation, they were able to take drugs off the street and sent a clear message to the communities that drugs will not be tolerated, and police will be taking action. The investigation is currently ongoing.


Investigation into historic rape case: Detective Constable (DC) Deborah Ward

Deborah Ward being presented with her award

In 2019, DC Ward was assigned as a liaison officer, responsible for helping to support victims through the crime reporting process all the way to court, for a historic rape investigation. The woman, who was now an adult, reported about how her father’s cousin had sexually abused her when she was a child.

Throughout the investigation, DC Ward committed huge amounts of time to provide care, support and advice to the victim throughout the investigation and the criminal justice process. The investigation resulted in a conviction and significant sentence for the offender, who received a 13 year prison sentence.

Following the trial, the victim wrote to DC Ward and finished her letter by saying: ‘Me reaching the end of my journey is down to the support received by Debs - what she does is so important and makes a huge difference. She is an absolute credit to policing.’


Tractor secured for public engagement events: PC Clarke Orchard

Supt Hayley Costar presenting award to PC Orchard 

In partnership with a local business, PC Orchard secured the loan of a John Deere tractor for the police to take along to public events at no cost to the Force. The tractor was wrapped in police livery and was used across a number of shows and events, including the Devon County Show.

The tractor was a great asset to the police stands, encouraging the public to come over and speak with officers. The aim of the tractor was to raise awareness of the support Devon & Cornwall Police can give to those who are concerned and effected about issues such as agricultural plant theft, agricultural GPS theft, livestock theft and livestock worrying.

The addition was part of a wider effort from across the Force to increase to community messaging within the rural areas of Devon and Cornwall. This had a significant impact on improving the public's trust in the Force and also helped to forge a memorable connection with our communities.

PC Orchard has been recognised for his initiative, commitment and professional diligence in using innovative ways to support engagement between the police and the public.


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