Memorial tree planted to honour North East policeman who died in the line of duty
The life and service of a police officer who died in the line of duty 30 years ago have been commemorated with a special ceremony.
Sergeant William Forth, known as Bill, was responding to a 999 call in Sunniside, Gateshead, in 1993 when he was fatally stabbed.
To mark the 30th anniversary of his murder on Tuesday, a cherry tree was planted Northumbria Police's Memorial Garden at Middle Engine Lane.
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The service was led by Chief Constable Winton Keenen, QPM DL, and attended by Bill’s widow Gill Merrin and Gill’s sister Julia Massie.
Also in attendance was Rachel Darling, a retired officer from Humberside Police, who rides in memory of Bill on the Police Unity Tour, a long-distance cycle rider to raise money for Care of Police Survivors, a charity dedicated to helping the families of police officers and staff who have lost their lives on duty.
Chief Constable Keenen said: “It was a privilege to have had the opportunity to spend time with Gill, Julia, and Rachel to commemorate Bill’s bravery and service at Northumbria Police.
“I am glad his legacy will live on in our Memorial Garden.”
He added: “Those charged with the duty of public service can find themselves in dangerous and hostile situations to protect others.
“Sadly, this can have dire consequences and we have already experienced the tragic loss of too many family members, friends and kindred spirits.
“We should never forget those who have and continue to make the ultimate sacrifice while seeking to keep us all safe.
“As I come to the end of my policing career, I reflect on all the dedicated officers, staff and volunteers who I have had the privilege to work alongside and those who will follow and I am immensely proud of the commitment they make to serve our communities.”
On the day, wreaths were also laid by Chief Superintendent Helena Barron and Gill at Bill’s memorial stone in Sunniside.
Paying tribute to her husband of 13 years, Gill said: “Bill was a fantastic police officer, he gave the ultimate sacrifice and people need to know the enormity of that event and the impact it had on us as a family.
“He was so much more than a police officer, he was a family man, a great dad.”
Bill, who was from Fencehouses but lived in Tunstall, Sunderland, joined Northumbria Police in 1979, working in the Sunderland area.
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He was promoted to Sergeant in 1989, working in the training department and was soon seconded to the District Police Training Centre at Aykley Heads.
He was 34-years-old when he was stabbed in the heart, lung and kidney by Paul Weddle, then 26, as he attended a 999 call.
In 1994, Weddle and Philip English, then just 15, who was at the scene of the attack, were convicted of murder un the controversial joint enterprise legislation.
Weddle, from Beacon Lough, Gateshead, was sentenced to life in prison, and English, of Sunniside, was jailed for 15 years.
English’s conviction was quashed after a court heard he was 100 yards away and in handcuffs when the fatal attack took place.
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Sgt Forth was posthumously awarded the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct.
Gill added: “The memorial tree planted in Bill’s honour marks the service and sacrifice made by Bill, and pays tribute to other fallen officers.
“It symbolises new beginnings and spring after the depth of winter, creating a safe haven to take a moment to pause and reflect.”