The former top detective who led the investigation into the execution-style murder of a Leeds policeman exactly 10 years ago says officers face greater dangers today than ever before.
As serving West Yorkshire officers this morning prepared to lay a wreath at the spot where Pc Ian Broadhurst was shot dead in Fearnville on Boxing Day 2003, ex-detective superintendent Chris Gregg said criminals had become increasingly likely to use potentially lethal force against police.
In an exclusive interview to mark the 10-year anniversary, Mr Gregg also said PC Broadhurst’s killer, David Bieber, remained one of the most dangerous men in the prison system and criticised the decision to reduce his original whole-life sentence.
He said: “I think the world is becoming more dangerous for police officers. The dangers they are facing now are higher than they’ve ever been. It’s not good. “Criminals think nothing of using anything at their means. They will think nothing of shooting an officer to get away.”
Traffic officer PC Broadhurst was shot dead by Bieber after he and his colleague, PC Neil Roper, questioned the American body-building fanatic about the stolen car he was driving.
The murder sparked a five-day manhunt for Bieber, who was eventually cornered in a guesthouse in Gateshead.
He was convicted of the murder after a trial and told that he would spend the rest of his life in prison.
That ruling was successfully appealed in 2008 when a judge imposed a minimum 37-year- tariff.
Mr Gregg said that decision was a mistake and claimed that Bieber would go on the run again if given the opportunity.
“I was disappointed with the decision to reduce his sentence,” he said. “He is one of the most dangerous people in the prison system and he will stop at nothing to escape.
“He would think nothing of taking a hostage, he would think nothing of doing anything to get out of prison. There is nothing that could convince me that this man should ever walk the streets again.”
Nick Smart, the chairman of West Yorkshire Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said the threat to police had grown because of the accessibility of weapons.
“If anything, with the growth of the internet and the availability of weapons, the dangers have increased,” he said.
“Our mantra has always been that there’s no such thing as a routine call. When Ian stopped that car, that seemed like a routine call, but Bieber had a gun and shot him dead. It shows we are a target and the risks are very apparent.”
How net closed in on fugitive police killer in five-day manhunt
Today (Dec 26) marks 10 years since the murder of PC Ian Broadhurst in Leeds. Sam Casey revisits a case that shocked the nation.
When traffic officers Ian Broadhurst and Neil Roper approached a suspected stolen car in the Fearnville area of Leeds on December 26, 2003, there was no indication of the mortal danger they were walking into.
The pair, who had spotted that the black BMW may have false plates, went to speak to the driver, who was sitting inside reading the Racing Post.
Unbeknown to the two officers, the hulking man behind the wheel of the car was a steroid-obsessed fugitive killer who had stolen the identity of a dead child in his native United States before fleeing to the UK. He had already spent eight years on British soil evading justice.
The suspect – who gave a false name – was unnervingly cold under questioning. Well-founded suspicions that he was concealing both the truth about his own personal details and a potential weapon gave PCs Broadhurst and Roper cause to call for back-up.
But as PC Roper attempted to handcuff him, he pulled a 9mm gun from his pocket and fired without warning.
PC Roper was shot twice but managed to escape. James Banks, who had arrived to provide support, remarkably survived being shot as the bullet lodged in his police radio. PC Broadhurst was hit twice. The first shot to his chest may well have proved fatal, but Bieber ensured he had no chance of surviving by shooting him in the head as he lay pleading for his life on the ground.
Having killed one policeman and seriously injured another, the gunman calmly left the scene, threatened a couple who were out shopping and stole their car to make his getaway.
Detective Superintendent Chris Gregg was the senior investigating officer on call that day. He said it was crucial not to let the emotion of the news that a colleague had been murdered cloud the investigation.
“All that’s running through your mind is getting the investigation on track,” he said. “I personally approached it not in a detached way but in the same way as any other investigation.”
Inquiries progressed rapidly. The stolen BMW and the Racing Post the gunman had been reading yielded fingerprints. Public appeals gave police a name – Nathan Wayne Coleman – and an address.
When they broke into a storage facility on Roseville Road in Leeds that was being used by the man calling himself Coleman, they got a chilling insight into the extent of the danger he posed. The unit contained a bullet-making machine capable of producing hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
Disturbingly, a CCTV camera had recorded the killer entering the facility two days after PC Broadhurst’s death to collect his home-made arsenal.
Four days after the shooting, the FBI matched fingerprints from the BMW to those of David Bieber – a fugitive who was wanted for a murder in 1995.
The net finally closed in when Bieber checked into the Royal Hotel guesthouse in Gateshead in the early hours of New Year’s Eve. A staff member recognised him from a photograph published in a national newspaper.
Armed police were called to carry out the arrest. The gun used to murder PC Broadhurst was found under Bieber’s mattress.
He was jailed in December 2004 and told he would never be released. Four years later the Court of Appeal reduced his sentence to a minimum of 37 years.
Today, serving officers laid a wreath at PC Broadhurst’s memorial, at the spot where he died.
Chief Supt Paul Money, Leeds district commander, said: “Although it is 10 years since PC Ian Broadhurst was murdered in the line of duty, the passage of time will never lessen the shocking impact his death has had on his family, friends and colleagues, as well as on the organisation as a whole.
“Ian remains very much in all our thoughts and it is important that we formally mark the anniversary of his death at the memorial that marks the spot where he fell.” He added that the recent shooting of PC Suzanne Hudson in Headingley, Leeds, acted as a stark reminder of the risks police face.
“Thankfully very few have had to make the ultimate sacrifice that Ian did,” he said.