Public service and personal sacrifice


PC Nicola Hughes' funeral held at Manchester Cathedral

At lunchtime today the normally bustling city of Manchester paused to pay tribute.

Hundreds of police officers from every rank and branch filed solemnly into the cathedral as thousands more lined the streets, boots and service medals shining in the autumn sun.

Among the many ordinary Mancunians who stopped to pay their respects, few knew Nicola Hughes. But they know what she stood for; the values she lived for; the values she died for.

It was a crime that saw the nation catch its breath: two constables hurrying to answer what they thought was a call for help from a stranger when, upon the ordinary lawn of an unremarkable house, their lives were cut short in an explosion of bullets and grenade shrapnel.

'Act of solidarity'

Such extreme, unprovoked violence is mercifully rare in this country and that, in part, is what made it so shocking. But the outrage was deepened because the victims were doing their duty: unarmed, young women who had taken an oath to protect and serve others.

From across the United Kingdom, the police family gathered in Manchester - an act of solidarity between colleagues and recognition of the risks all officers swear to accept whenever they wear the badge.

Some came to attend the funeral. But two representatives from each of the 53 UK forces were in the city to help patrol its streets, allowing local officers to say their farewell to a friend and workmate: the gesture a reminder that responsibility for safeguarding our communities never stops.

It was not a day for salutes, but for bowed heads. At the family's request, those policemen and women paying their respects in Manchester did so with a gesture that spoke to the humanity of Nicola Hughes: a moment to grieve; a time to reflect.

Nicola was just 23 years old, having joined Greater Manchester Police three years ago. She died, her mother Susan said, "doing the job she loved".

Her colleague and friend 32-year-old Fiona Bone had served for five years. Tomorrow, the city will pause once again to grieve for the death of one of its constables, an officer described as "a calm, gentle, woman".

Funerals are occasions to mourn what we have lost, but also to remind ourselves what we still have. Today the police paid their respects to a colleague greatly missed. But the public was also paying tribute to those who continue to protect, those who continue to serve.

Mark Easton Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Watching the funeral i was constantly reminded of people like Jean Charles de Menezes, Ian Tomlinson and Mark Duggan and wondered what they would think of it all.
    Probably sad as all right thinking people would be. Cheap political point scoring is bit off on the day of any funeral.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Think it was purely the people working in "media city" who lined the streets to give themselves a story. Anyway I expect this comment will be banned because it doesn't toe the line
    Well no ban (sorry). As to all being media type -doesn't sound like it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    After al the handwringing , soul searching, and platitudes, nothing will change. The unarmed police will still be faced with dealing with the lowest forms of human life as part of their everyday job. Due to the liberality of our judiciary , they will continue to be faced with the criminally insane and the most violent of people who should be incarcerated where they are not a public danger.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    I have no words for this tragedy, but my heart hurts.
    One of the most beautiful tributes was placed on at
    I hope you have the opportunity to watch.
    My tears are visible, but not the thought that says: You did your duty. May you now rest in the bossom of God.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    68 GMP have to do more than soul searching. This was not forseen & couldn't have been. Niether the police or anyone else are Gods. They are doing their best....This column is not about politics or asking questions or questioning tax. It's about the fact two lives were violently and without reason taken away pointlessly and people cannot help but reflect on it and respond in their own way to it..


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