John Speed – A Brave Man

PS John Speed Leeds Memorial
Picture of memorial to PS John Speed on Kirkgate in Leeds.

(Published on July 29, 2011) “I never knew John Speed, he was a police officer, a sergeant here in Leeds and in 1984 he was shot and killed when he went to the aid of a colleague who had just been shot and wounded. This happened near the Leeds parish church on 31st October 1984 and today a marble memorial stands testament to the bravery of an unarmed officer who long before health and safety became an issue died in the service of the public.

The memorial was unveiled in a ceremony in 1986, the police never caught the man responsible and living in the city back then I remember it was a big story then.

Later when the investigation was going nowhere I was visited by a couple of officers who came to my home to ask me if I had done it. The police back then had decided that because it was someone with a firearm perhaps the killer had been in the forces. There was a problem with that theory, I had won a shooting competition, in a joint services competition. So yes I could have handled a gun and shot the officer but the killer shot at 3 officers, wounding one, killing one and missing the 3rd. I said sorry but dead men tell no tales, when they left they were not amused.

The killer of John Speed, David Gricewith, was only identified as the gunman after his own death, more than two years later in a police chase after an armed robbery.

My uncle was for many years a police officer and when I was a boy we lived across the road from the local police HQ so I knew quite a few policemen and women. In those days being a copper was about nicking the local ne’er-do-wells and the oath taken by officers included the words “without fear or favour, affection or ill will”. Upholding the law was a lot simpler back then in the days before ACPO and political correctness gone mad.

In my book all three officers on that day in 1984 were brave men, armed with nothing but a warrant card, a wooden truncheon (that had not really changed since Victorian times) and a uniform.”