Which side of the line are you on?

By Mark Leech
Editor: The Prisons Handbook

Well, which side of the line are you on?

People who assault police officers should face a “two strikes” system that results in a mandatory jail sentence for a second offence, Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Britain’s most senior officer, has said.

My question is: why?

As someone who knows a thing or two about crime and prisons let me ask this: why would we allow someone to land a second punch when the first one was bad enough?

If we really want to protect our police and prison officers – the latter of whom suffered 10,311 assaults in the 12 months to March 2019, up 15% from the previous year, a record high figure and one that in the latest quarter alone rose by a further 4% – then let’s get serious.

I know from personal, lamentable, experience, that anything less than a jail sentence is seen as ‘getting off’.

Trust me when I say this: custody counts – the swiftness with which it is delivered it absolutely vital – but let me be absolutely clear about this too.

We send far too many people to prison, many for the wrong reasons, spreading a wide criminal net, catching a lot of small fish, and giving those sentences in some cases that are frankly wrong – the homeless man, who lives in a tent, who has mental health issues and who, according to the judge who sentenced him to six months for contempt yesterday, received negligent professional legal representation, is a classic example of that.

But when it comes to attacking police or prison officers we need to see these offences in a completely different category of crime.

So if you are charged with attacking an Emergency Service Worker once, never mind twice, the presumption at first hearing should be against bail – the colleagues of police officers hospitalised one night, should not see the person they charged with the offence out on the streets the very next day.

I know some will say that goes against the presumption of innocence – but no it doesn’t, because the same argument applies equally to everyone charged with serious offences who are denied bail – the problem is magistrates and judges do not see attacks on Emergency Workers as serious offences; and they must be made to do so.

On conviction, an immediate custodial sentence should also be the presumption too – and with an Extended Sentence seen as the norm.

An Extended Sentence moves the release at the halfway point of a sentence to the two-thirds point, with release then dependent on the Parole Board, and it comes with an extended period of post-release supervision, balancing support with a vitally important standing of the ground to make clear such offences are intolerable and must be dealt with as such.

I am totally against mandatory sentences, they allow politicians to pass sentences and not judges, and that isn’t what I recognise as justice – but clearly this idea of you go to jail for the second police assault diminishes the seriousness of these crimes rather than elevates them to the level of seriousness that they rightly deserve.

What’s more, if we are not to simply transfer the violence against Emergency Workers from pavement to prison, then the way we deal with those who attack prison officers must be equally robust – justice needs to be as swift in prison as it needs to be on the streets – but the truth is that it isn’t.

Far too often the CPS refuse to proceed on prison officer assaults because they do not see the point of prosecuting someone and sending them to prison when they’re already there; it’s a major miscalculation and a green light to continue.

Drugs are awash in our jails, organised by gangs corrupt who inexperienced staff, while individuals prey on their own so-called loved ones who are themselves then corrupted to bring drugs in before being caught and then jailed themselves; if you genuinely love and care about someone, you just don’t put them in that position – that’s not a relationship, its cowardly, selfish, bullying.

Violence in prisons is at a record high, and don’t believe all the hype surrounding the recent figures on the ’10 Prisons Project’ – yes they do show promising results, but a true examination of them shows it was a real mixed bag of results and not the ‘we’ve turned a corner’ gloss put on it that some would have you believe – violence in some of those 10 prisons actually increased.

We need much more investment in violence reduction strategies inside our prisons, every prison has a violence reduction strategy but in Prison Inspectorate Report after Report I see criticisms that it is simply not being delivered nor given the importance that it deserves.

We have anger management courses in prisons for offenders, but places on them are thin on the ground, with neither the cash nor the trained staff are in place to deliver them.

We need airport-style security scanners at the front gate of every prison in the country – the Prime Minister will tell you that this is happening, I can tell you they haven’t even been ordered, and there is no bidding process either for their purchase or installation underway, nor any staff training programme in train for their operation either.

The police and prison officers are our first and last line of defence – an attack on them is an attack on everyone and we should see it as such and respond in a fair, just but absolutely robust way.

As Boris would say: “No If’s; No But’s”.

Either attacks on Emergency Workers are serious offences, or they’re not; which side of the line are you on?

www.markleech.com @prisonsorguk

Azelle Rodney Firearms Cop in Court

Azelle Rodney
Azelle Rodney

A former police marksman has pleaded not guilty to the murder of robbery suspect Azelle Rodney.

Anthony Long, an ex-specialist firearms officer with the Metropolitan Police, stood in the dock at London’s Southwark Crown Court and spoke only to deny the charge.

Long is accused of killing Mr Rodney in April 2005.

Mr Rodney, 24, died after officers stopped the car he was travelling in with two other men in Edgware, north London.

Mr Justice Sweeney released Long on unconditional bail to his trial which is set for June 8 at the same court.

Cop Killer Harry Roberts Released

Harry Roberts - right
Harry Roberts – right

Police killer Harry Roberts has been released from prison, despite calls from relatives of his victims, politicians and senior police for him to stay behind bars.

The 78-year-old, who was jailed for life for shooting dead three unarmed policemen in 1966, was released from Littlehey prison in Cambridgeshire on Monday night, The Sun reported.

Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation John Tully said on Twitter that he thought Roberts’s release was “sickening”.

Roberts spent 45 years in jail after murdering Detective Sergeant Christopher Head, 30, Detective Constable David Wombwell, 25, and Constable Geoffrey Fox, 41.

The revelation that he was to be let out of prison sparked anger last month.

Mandy Fox, the youngest daughter of Pc Fox, branded the decision a “disgrace” and said she was “sickened” that Roberts was being released.

Gillian Wombwell, the widow of Mr Wombwell, said: “Our sentence is for life and so should his be.”

The prospect of Roberts being set free also drew strong criticism from Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who said a life sentence should have been just that.

Home Secretary Theresa May and London mayor Boris Johnson added their voices to the chorus calling for Roberts to remain behind bars.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last month defended the Parole Board which decided on the release, saying such a decision is not about “feelings” but “how the justice system works”.

He said: “If you want to run the system according to the latest emotion you feel, fine, but that would be a disaster.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “We do not comment on individuals.

“Offenders on life sentences are subject to strict controls for as long as their risk requires them. If they fail to comply with these conditions they can be immediately returned to prison.

“Offenders managed through multi-agency public protection arrangements (Mappa) are monitored and supervised by probation, police and other agencies.”

3 x Cop Killer Harry Roberts to be freed after 45 years

Harry Roberts - right
Harry Roberts – right

Notorious police killer Harry Roberts is to be released from prison after serving more than 45 years of a life sentence.

Roberts, now 78, was jailed for life for the murder of three policemen in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, in 1966. His 30-year minimum tariff expired 18 years ago.

The parole board is understood to have approved his release, and he will be subject to close monitoring by police and the probation service.

DS Christopher Head, 30, DC David Wombwell, 25, and PC Geoffrey Fox, 41, were shot dead without warning while questioning three suspects in a van on 12 August 1966.

Steve White, head of the Police Federation, told the Sun: “This decision by the parole board is a slap in the face for the families of the three police officers he brutally murdered.”

And ex-Metropolitan police commissioner Lord Stevens told the paper: “The impact of this terrible crime was horrendous. This is a case where life imprisonment should mean exactly that – life.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We do not comment on individuals. The release of life sentence prisoners is directed by the independent parole board once they are satisfied they can be safely managed in the community. Once released, they are subject to strict controls for as long as their risk requires them. If they fail to comply with these conditions they can be immediately returned to prison.

“Offenders managed through Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements are monitored and supervised by probation, police and other agencies.”

In May, justice minister Chris Grayling announced plans to change the law so police or prison officer killers would face whole-life prison terms.

The current minimum term is 30 years before a convict can be considered for parole and under the amendment to the criminal justice and courts bill, a whole life sentence would not be mandatory.

Speaking at the time, Grayling said: “Police officers play a vital role in keeping communities safe. As has been tragically demonstrated in recent years, this role is a dangerous one that can lead to officers paying the ultimate price while serving their community. It is essential that police and prison officers feel the full weight of the state is behind them as they fulfil their crucial duties.”

Mark Leech, editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said that the decision was right in practice.

Mr Leech said: “I understand that many will point to the fact that this decision is wrong in principle, but for me it is exactly right in practice: the whole life tariff as we understand it today did not exist in 1966, this is a man who has served almost a quarter of a century, he may not have shown any humanity to his victims but that is not an excuse for us now not showing some degree of humanity to him.”

Whole Life sentences for police or prison officer killers


Criminals who kill police or prison officers in the course of duty are to face whole-life jail sentences.

Changes to the law by the Ministry of Justice will mean judges will start by considering a whole-life tariff when deciding the sentence for killing either a police or prison officer in the course of their duty, up from the current starting point of a 30-year minimum term

Judges would retain the discretion to determine the appropriate sentence in each case – a whole life term will not be mandatory.

There have been 13 direct killings of police officers in the course of duty since 2000 – including the murder of Pcs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes by one-eyed Dale Cregan in Greater Manchester, who was handed a whole-life tariff.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Police officers play a vital role in keeping communities safe. As has been tragically demonstrated in recent years, this role is a dangerous one which can lead to officers paying the ultimate price while serving their community.

“On a daily basis, prison officers are also asked to protect the public by dealing with violent offenders and standing in the way of criminals in order to keep the peace.

“It is essential that police and prison officers feel the full weight of the state is behind them as they fulfil their crucial duties. Changing the starting point for this offence sends a clear message that the Government supports the work that these vital public servants play.”

The measure is being introduced by an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which is currently going through Parliament.

Most recently, PC Andrew Duncan, 47, was hit by a car in Sutton, south London, while checking vehicle speeds in September.

Gary Cody admitted causing death by dangerous driving and was jailed for eight and a half years.

Other measures in the Bill include making criminals contribute towards costs of running the courts by imposing a new charge at point of conviction.

The Bill will also introduce a new offence with a punishment of up to two years in prison for criminals who go on the run while serving the non-custodial element of their sentence.

Other changes will bring an end to the automatic half-way point release for criminals convicted of rape or attempted rape of a child, or serious terrorism offences.


What happens to Dale Cregan now that he has been remanded in custody?

Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national monthly newspaper for prisons in England and Wales explains.

All adult male prisoners in England and Wales are categorised into one of four security categories – Category A (maximum security) being the highest, Cateory D (open prisons) being the lowest.

Category A is restricted to those prisoners for whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public or national security; Dale Cregan would be a Category A prisoner – able to be held in only a small number of maximum security prisons around the country, one of which is HM Prison Manchester which is where he will be located.

Within Category A there are three sub-categories: ‘standard risk’, ‘high risk’ and ‘exceptional risk’.

‘Standard risk’ is the sub-category into which every Category A prisoner is first placed.

A risk assessment would then take place – if it is felt that Dale Cregan has the resources himself to mount a determined escape attempt, or that he has connections outside the prison that could effectively ‘spring’ him from the jail, then he will be placed into the Category A High Risk Category

However, if there is credible intelligence that an escape is actually being planned, then he would be placed into the Category A Exceptional Risk category – and security doesn’t come any higher than this.

My sources tell me that in the absence of evidence that an escape is ‘in the offing’ as it were, Dale Cregan has been categorised as ‘High Risk Category A’ prisoner.

This means that his cell location inside the prison will be moved on a constant basis, every one of his visitors will be intensively screened by the security services before being allowed to see him – and his cell location will be changed after every single visit so no one can be certain exactly where in the prison he is to be found.

He will be placed under 24 hour CCTV surveillance, he will not be allowed to associate with other prisoners, he will remain in his cell 23 hours a day and for the one hour he is allowed out it will take place in a fully caged yard so helicopter escape is impossible.

Every time he comes out of his cell he will be escorted by three prison officers and a dog handler once he moves outside the cell block. A 5-watt ‘night light’ will be left on in his cell 24 hours day making observation easy without infringing on his human rights by prison staff observing him having to switch on and off the cell light – and making it impossible for him to judge when he is and isn’t being observed.

His clothes will be removed from his cell every night and replaced with a high visibility pair of pyjamas, all his mail and telephone calls copied and recorded, and each will be carefully screened for hidden messages.

He will be allowed access to an in-cell television, individual access to the gymnasium will also be arranged, and her will be visited regularly by medical, religious and monitoring staff to ensure he is being well cared for; at the moment in the eyes of the law he is entitled to the presumption of innocence and so will be allowed access to £51 a week to buy items from the prison canteen.

If at any point intelligence is received to suggest an escape attempt is being planned, he will be moved to a different prison immediately, probably Belmarsh in London, Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire or Frankland in county Durham – external prison officer patrols at the prison will be stepped up, prison officers will mount a guard in the yard outside his cell and inside the cell door will be opened and a prison officer seated outside a gate so he can be continually observed.


Dale Cregan has appeared in court accused of four murders including the shooting and grenade attack that killed two policewomen.

Pcs Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, described as “wonderful human beings” and dedicated police officers, died in Hattersley, Tameside, on Tuesday morning.

The defendant also faced charges of murdering father and son David and Mark Short earlier this year and four attempted murders.

Cregan, wearing a dark blue sweatshirt, was brought into the secure dock at Manchester City Magistrates’ Court flanked by four police officers. The hearing lasted just two minutes.

Two more officers dressed in military-style fatigues and armed with machine guns stood outside the dock. Cregan, who has grown a thick beard, scanned the courtroom and stared over at the public gallery, where relatives of the Short family were seated.

Cregan sat down as he was brought into the dock but got to his feet after he was asked to stand by District Judge Jonathan Taaffe. He wore a false black onyx eye in his left eye socket and spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth to the courtroom, which was packed with reporters.

Judge Taaffe then read out the eight charges the defendant faces, including that of murdering the two officers.

The double killing provoked national shock and outrage after the unarmed policewoman were lured by a routine burglary call to a house on the sprawling Hattersley estate. Cregan was arrested a short time later after walking into Hyde Police Station two miles away.

The 29-year-old was already wanted by police in relation to the murders of David and Mark Short in separate attacks in May and August this year. He has been charged with those two murders and also faces four further counts of attempted murder of three men and one woman who were either injured or present during the attacks on Mr Short senior and junior.

The court heard that the four murder charges and four attempted murder charges were so serious they could only be dealt with by law at a higher court and the case was automatically sent to Manchester Crown Court for a further hearing on Monday. Cregan was remanded into custody and there was no application for bail by his solicitor, David Caplin.


A police officer killed in a gun-and-grenade attack may have been trying to defend herself when she died, it has emerged.

An eye-witness has said they saw a Taser stun gun in the hand of Pc Fiona Bone, 32, as her body lay on the ground outside the house they were visiting in Mottram on Tuesday morning.

The unnamed witness said: “She had a Taser in her hand and she was laying by the window of the house.”

She died at the scene and her colleague Pc Nicola Hughes died later in hospital.

Residents reported hearing an explosion from a grenade and up to 13 shots being fired.

A spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Police confirmed a Taser stun gun was found out of its holster on the ground beside the two stricken officers, although they added it was unclear to which officer it belonged. Forensic experts are now examining it.

It came as chief constable Sir Peter Fahy warned that his officers could still be at risk from grenades in the wake of the double murder.

Sir Peter said he was not sure that all the grenades had been recovered from the area after the unarmed officers were fatally attacked.

Speaking at a press conference at GMP’s headquarters in Newton Heath, he confirmed that the crime scene at Abbey Gardens, Mottram, had been preserved to allow fragments of the device, which was used in the killings, to be recovered.

He also revealed that the firearm used in the incident had been recovered and said they were determined to bring to justice anyone who had been engaged in a ‘criminal conspiracy’.

Sir Peter said: “We are not confident that we have recovered all the grenades, we don’t know for certain, so we’ve made it clear to our officers that the threat is still there,” he told reporters.

“I would want that to be the message, and that threat is very much there.

“As we’ve indicated as part of this inquiry we’ve had to issue essentially what we call Osman warnings, threat notices, to a large number of individuals who we felt could be at risk as a result of this particular series of events.”

Sir Peter told the conference that the women had been sent to investigate to what appeared to be a routine burglary call when they were murdered – and there was no intelligence or information to suggest that the address posed any greater threat than any other call.

He added: “I don’t think we have said there are any questions about our procedures.

“There was nothing in our intelligence systems or information systems that had come to light that indicated that the risk at this address was any greater than any other that we have been called to.

“We have had armed officers on patrol in those areas, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We get hundreds of calls to incidents, all sorts of crimes like anti-social behaviour, and clearly we can’t send armed officers to every single one of those. It’s just the nature of policing that unarmed officers every day go to incidents not knowing what might be the risk or the threat or knowing what they are walking into.”

A second man has been arrested in connection with the deaths. Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said a 28-year-old man was detained in Hattersley on suspicion of conspiracy to murder.

He also thanked the public for their support – and said his colleagues had been overwhelmed by the outpouring of grief from the community.

“I would like to thank the public for this tremendous show of support. It means a huge amount to us at this difficult time.

“The whole force and indeed the whole police service is devastated by the deaths of these two brave colleagues but to know that at this difficult time that the public supports what we do and supports so strongly what we do and is giving support to the families, that is really important to us.”

Sir Peter paid tribute to the dignity of the families of Pc Bone and Pc Hughes – and said relatives of the women were incredibly proud of them and knew they had died doing a job that they loved.

Manchester police murders

From Mark Leech editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales.

As someone who deals with offenders day in and day out it comes as absolutely no surprise to me that nobody turned Dale Cregan into the police.
The 50 grand the police offered was a derisory amount in exchange for someone putting their life on the line, up rooting their family, changing their identity and moving to a different part of the country – because that is what the police were asking them to do.
Surely the police knew that 50 grand to the drug dealers who were concealing him was little more than pin money to them: these people spend that amount on a motor car.
The routine arming of police would be a disaster for policing in England and Wales, and it is something which we must avoid at all costs. Police officers would find themselves cornered and confronted by numbers they could not control, and it is inevitable in those circumstances that police officers would have their guns taken off them, they would probably be killed with them, and that would just lead to more guns on the street which is the last thing we need to achieve.
Mark Leech
Editor: Converse
The national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales


GMP WPCs Fiona Bone And Nicola Hughes

One of the country’s most wanted men was accused of luring two unarmed female constables to their deaths today in a brutal crime that shocked the nation.

Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said the brave young officers had been sent to investigate what appeared to be a routine burglary report when Dale Cregan, 29, attacked them with a gun and a grenade.

He said: “It would appear Cregan has deliberately done this in an act of cold-blooded murder.”

He said Cregan’s motive for the attack was “impossible to fathom”.

After the murders, the fugitive, already wanted in connection with separate gun and grenade attacks that killed father and son David and Mark Short, gave himself up at nearby Hyde police station in Greater Manchester.

Sir Peter named the officers as Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23.

He paid tribute to Miss Hughes, describing her as a “chatterbox” and a “great bobby” who was “always smiling”.

He said Miss Bone was a “calm, gentle woman”, an “excellent bobby” and had been in the middle of planning her wedding.

Sir Peter, speaking at a sombre press conference at GMP headquarters, said: “Clearly we are devastated today by the loss of two of our officers.

“This is one of the darkest days in the history of the Greater Manchester Police if not for the police service overall, because we have lost two deeply loved and valued colleagues, because they are part of our team. Policing is very much a family.

“But also because of the huge efforts that officers had been making to arrest and detain Dale Cregan. Obviously the officers involved in that inquiry are shattered by this outcome.”

The Chief Constable said it was routine to send unarmed officers to a burglary call.

“We believe that Dale Cregan was in a house in Abbey Gardens overnight, and at some point this morning has either himself made a call or had somebody else make a call reporting a burglary,” Sir Peter said.

“This particular address was not known to us. So as would be routine, two unarmed officers were sent to the scene.

“When they arrived, it appears that Cregan emerged into the road and killed these two officers. A firearm was used, a grenade was also used.”

Asked if the grenade was thrown directly at the two police officers, Sir Peter said: “Certainly we believe the grenade was thrown at the officers but we have not been able to be specific about the injuries the officers suffered or how they died.”

Sir Peter said he believed Cregan had been “protected by a criminal conspiracy to harbour him”, adding that the force was “fully determined” to investigate that conspiracy and bring those involved “to book”.

Two people from the house in Hattersley, a man and a woman, were helping police with inquiries today.

Sir Peter said he was not aware that Cregan had contacted police at any time during their manhunt or made any threats to police officers.

But he added that police had been looking at a range of scenarios including Cregan trying to kill other people as a result of the gangland feud he was involved in.

And he said there was “concern” he might target police officers.

The outrage prompted renewed calls for the routine arming of police.

But Sir Peter said his force believed “passionately” that police should remain unarmed, despite the tragedy.

He said: “We are passionate that the British style of policing is routinely unarmed policing. Sadly we know from the experience in America and other countries, that having armed officers certainly does not mean, sadly, that police officers do not end up getting shot.”

Cregan, who only has one eye, had been the subject of a huge manhunt after the murders of David Short, 46, and his son Mark, 23. A £50,000 reward had been offered for information leading to his arrest.

David Short was killed at his home in Folkestone Road East, Clayton, Manchester, on August 10, while Mark was gunned down at the Cotton Tree pub in nearby Droylsden, on May 25.

Four men have already been charged in connection with Mark Short’s murder and are due to enter pleas at Manchester Crown Court in November.

Earlier this month a 33-year-old man also appeared at Manchester Crown Court charged with the gun and grenade murder of David Short.

Sir Peter said finding Cregan had been “a top priority” and “a huge investigation” for the force, involving 50 armed raids.

He said officers showed “great courage” going into dangerous and unexpected situations.

“These were two officers going about their normal duty. Like all officers they went to a variety of incidents not knowing what it was that they would face.

“Clearly the police service is not perfect, we know there have been a number of high-profile incidents, but below that, day in, day out, police officers go about their duty, go into dangerous situations, unexpected situations, and show great bravery, great courage and are with people at the very worst moments in their lives. This is exactly what these two officers were doing.”

The chairman of the Greater Manchester Police Federation Ian Hanson called the deaths “the slaughter of the innocents”.

“I’m going to look beyond the uniform here. What we’ve got are two young girls that went out this morning and they’ve got an absolute right to come home tonight to their loved ones. This is cold-blooded murder. It’s the slaughter of the innocents. GMP is a family.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said the killings were “a shocking reminder of the debt we owe to those who put themselves in danger to keep us safe and secure”.

Eyewitnesses said a hail of bullets was fired and then a grenade was used during the attack, shortly before 11am. One of the officers died at the scene. The second was critically injured and died later.

Window cleaner Warren Shepherd said: “I just heard gunshots, bang, bang, bang – around ten of them, then a pause and a big explosion.”

The scene was cordoned off with a heavy police presence. A fleet of vans and ambulances was parked at the top of the road as a helicopter hovered overhead. Traffic was blocked from coming on to the estate up to half a mile away.

A Royal Logistic Corps bomb disposal vehicle was inside the cordon.

The Prime Minister added later: “What we have seen is the absolutely despicable act of pure evil.

“The cold blooded murder of two female police officers doing their job out there protecting the public; another reminder of the incredible risks and great work our police service does.

“My thoughts and I think the thoughts of the whole country will be with their families at this impossibly difficult time.”

Asked if the killings would reopen the debate on arming police, Mr Cameron replied: “Well it certainly reminds us, it’s a shocking reminder of what the police do on our behalf.

“There are more armed police officers, there are more armed response units. But this was supposed to be the response to a domestic burglary and that wouldn’t normally require armed officers.

“So there’s no sign that anything wrong was done, the only thing there was was an act of shocking evil by this appalling individual who has taken the lives of two women police officers who were doing their duty.”

Police said Miss Bone died at the scene and that Miss Hughes died a short time later.

Colleagues have paid have paid tribute to them in statements issued through Greater Manchester Police.

Miss Bone’s colleagues said: “When Fiona first joined the shift, she was quite quiet and reserved. However, she came out of her shell and had a great sense of humour, always enjoying a good laugh.

“Officers loved being partnered up with Fiona as she was always calm, collected and professional and could defuse situations with her calm gentle way. She was an excellent bobby and cared about her job and the community she served.”

Miss Hughes’s colleagues said: “Nicky was very bubbly and loved life and socialising. She was a chatterbox and was always smiling, even after a night shift when everyone else was a bit grumpy.

“She was a good listener and couldn’t do enough for people, she was a lovely friend and a great bobby.”

A book of condolence is available online at www.gmp.police.uk for anyone who wishes to leave messages.

Cregan is being questioned on suspicion of the murder of the two police officers and also the murders of David Short and Mark Short.

A cordon was in place on Clarendon Road around Hyde Police Station, two miles from Hattersley, where Cregan handed himself in to police.

A controlled explosion is believed to have been carried out on a car parked outside the police station according to locals, who reported hearing a loud bang and spotted a plume of smoke.

The vehicle is suspected to have been used by Cregan to drive from Hattersley to hand himself in to police.

An officer in helmet and heavily protective clothing was also seen carefully searching the car, a dark blue BMW coupe with its back windscreen smashed.

Around 200 yards of Clarendon Road was sealed off from traffic and houses and 30 children at a nursery nearby were evacuated while forensic experts in white boiler suits and army officers in fatigues could be seen at the scene with armed police carrying machine guns.

A lorry from the Royal Logistical Corps Bomb Disposal, was also at the scene.

Locals said officers called at properties around midday and told residents to stay indoors but an hour later called again ordering everyone to leave immediately.

A private ambulance left the cordon – with the body of Miss Bone believed to be inside – as a number of officers formed a guard of honour.

GMP thanked the public for “their many heartfelt messages of condolence” and said plans are under way to make a book of condolence available for people to sign.

Messages of condolence can also be posted on the GMP website via the following link, http://www.gmp.police.uk/mainsite/cond.htm.

The force has requested that flowers are sent to the Tameside Divisional Headquarters at Ashton police station, Manchester Road, Ashton-under-Lyne, OL7 OBQ.

Intervening during a general debate in the Commons ahead of the recess for the party conferences, Labour MP Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) said a “terrible sadness was felt across Greater Manchester at the loss of two very brave police officers”.

Responding for the Government, deputy Commons leader Tom Brake said: “Both were bravely carrying out their duties and I am sure MPs will today want to express their sympathies to their families, friends and colleagues. Of course, the Home Office and Government will ensure MPs are kept up to date as far as possible as things develop in this very sad case.”

A second man – a 24-year-old – was also charged last month with the murder of David Short and later remanded in custody after he appeared at Manchester Crown Court.

More floral tributes were left at the police cordon tonight.

One note attached read: “To the families and colleagues of Fiona and Nicola. Our deepest sympathies. Your colleagues at Sankey police station, Cheshire Police.”

Another said: “Nicola, Thank You For The Smiles. Sue and Karen xxx”

Attached to another bouquet was: “RIP For Our Two Brave Fighters Fiona and Nicola. Sadly Missed By All. Our Thoughts Are With Your Families.”

A similar tribute said: “Forever in my thoughts and hearts.

“You will be missed so much. Lots of hugs, Paula, RIP xxx.”

A further card read: “Nik and Fi, You swore to protect and serve.

“I hope you can still do that from heaven with all the other police guardian angels.

“I will never forget you beautiful ladies.

“It was a pleasure to have known you and work with you.

“God bless, sleep tight, Emma C x x”.