27/02/2024
Norwich, GB 4 C
Researching and reporting on the lives of some really interesting people (RIP)

PC CARL WALKER GC, aged 88

HEROIC POLICEMAN

Born in Kendal, Cumbria, his parents were Alexander William Walker, a paper mill worker, and Sara Jane Dickinson, a homemaker. Carl was the middle child of seven.

After leaving Kendal Grammar School at the age of 15, he became an apprentice joiner.

Once his apprenticeship was complete, Carl had to do two years’ National Service. He signed up for the RAF military police.

He so enjoyed policework that when he was ‘demobbed’ he signed up with the Lancashire Constabulary.

However, after just 18 months, he quit the police force, disillusioned with the low level of pay. Carl immediately returned to Kendal and became a full-time joiner.

He married Kathleen Barker, the daughter of the man who had taught him his trade and they had one son called Andrew.

Carl also changed jobs during this period, moving to work in an asbestos factory.

In 1959, he decided to return to the police and signed up for the force in the Blackpool Borough.

Carl represented the local police at wrestling and played in their Rugby Union team.

On the 23rd August 1971, he was out on patrol, alone, in his panda car. He received a report on his radio, that an armed robbery was taking place at Preston’s Jewellers in Queen Street, Blackpool – very close to the North Pier.  As the officer closest to this area, Carl sped to the scene.

A gang of five thieves had come up from the capitol. They labelled themselves the ‘Crazy Gang’ and had already carried out robberies in Glasgow and London. They were led by Joseph Frederick Sewell, known as ‘Fat Fred’. He liked to term himself ‘The Squire’.

Fat Fred (courtesy The Sun)

Another gang member, Denis Bond, had just been released from prison a couple of days earlier after serving seven years for armed robbery.

Sewell knew Lancashire well, having once owned a house there. He had previously come up from London and had scouted the area.

The day before the robbery, the gang stayed in a Blackpool boarding house. Their getaway car was a green Triumph 2000 Estate.

Green Triumph 2000 Estate car (courtesy Simon Cars)

Sewell insisted all the gang members wore dark sunglasses to make them look more menacing.

They entered Preston’s Jewellers and forced all the staff to lie on the floor at gunpoint whilst they ransacked the shop. They stole £20,000 of gold and jewels  (about £3 million in today’s money).

Outside Prestons 1971 (courtesy BBC)

However, the assistant manager of the shop, Joseph Lammond, had managed to raise the alarm before being forced down on the floor.

A passer-by, a fireman called Ronald Gale, noticed the robbery going on. He ran into the shop to try to stop the robbery, but Sewell hit him over the head with an iron bar, knocking Gale out.

Then the gang fled – just as PC Walker arrived in his panda car. Without realising it, the gang had locked all the doors of the getaway car and were fumbling with the keys as the policeman ran towards them. In their panic they dropped most of the loot on the pavement.

PC Walker was stopped in his tracks by a robber waving a shotgun in his face. The gang then drove off at a very fast pace, with PC Walker, back in his car, giving chase. His radio informed him help was on its way.

The gang drove so fast that Carl lost them a couple of times – but it was through the centre of Blackpool, so the busy town centre traffic slowed them down.

Carl eventually chased them into a narrow dead-end alley. He parked his car across the entrance so they couldn’t escape. But they did. They rammed his police car with so much force that it was shoved aside.

At this moment PC Ian Hampson arrived in his car. He noticed Carl Walker was suffering from shock due to the impact, so he took up the chase.

PC Hampson caught up with the gang, but one of them shot him in the chest.

The robbers tried to drive off, but PC Pat Jackson rammed their car at top speed, rendering it immobile. All five gunmen got out and ran across the street, chased by PC Andrew Hillis. They shot at Hillis but missed. He then rugby-tackled one of them.

The remaining gang members then hijacked a transit van owned by Edwards’ Butchers. Two butcher’s boys tried to fight them off, without success.

By now, PC Carl Walker had recovered his senses and re-joined the chase, along with other police cars.

The transit van crashed into a garden wall, and all four gang members ran off in different directions. Walker, with two other policemen in his wake, found himself chasing Fat Fred Sewell.

Finally, he cornered Sewell in another alley. As Carl approached him, the criminal pointed his gun at him and shot him in the groin.

Carl was followed into the alley by the senior policeman present at the scene, Superintendent Gerry Richardson. When the latter saw PC Walker had been shot, he approached Sewell saying, “Don’t be daft. Don’t be silly.”

Sewell shot him. As Richardson lay on the ground, PC Jackson approached. As a warning, Sewell shot Richardson again. He then ran off.

Sewell was the only one of the five villains who escaped. His girlfriend was in a car nearby (a gold Ford Capri). She bundled him into the boot and immediately drove Sewell back to London.

Gold Ford Capri (courtesy Facebook)

All the wounded policemen (and two of the criminals), were taken to Blackpool’s Victoria Hospital. There, Superintendent Richardson died of his injuries.

A nationwide hunt began for Sewell.

Lancashire Constabulary officers visited London but were not impressed with the lack of assistance given them by the Metropolitan Police.

However, after 45 days, Sewell was tracked down to his bedsit in Holloway. When police burst into his home, he was lying on his bed, smoking, with his shotgun at his side.

All five criminals received lengthy prison sentences. Sewell was sentenced to 30 years for both murder and attempted murder. During his trial, he said of the shooting of Superintendent Richardson, “I shall see him every day of my life. He was too brave. He just kept coming.”

Sewell went to Gartree High Security prison in Leicestershire – where the Kray brothers were also incarcerated.

Meanwhile, Carl was off work for two months. When he returned, he was immediately promoted to Sergeant and transferred to nearby Fleetwood.

Carl Walker GC (courtesy The Times)

PC Ian Hampson had been seriously injured as well, and needed life saving operations. He eventually returned to work.

All nine policemen involved in the incident were honoured. Four of them, including Carl, were awarded the George Cross. This included Gerry Richardson, who was given his posthumously. It was accepted by his widow, Maureen.

The George Cross citation reads, “Throughout the pursuit which followed the robbery, all the police officers concerned were aware that they faced the threat of death or serious injury, but gave no thought to their own safety in their efforts to effect the arrest of armed and dangerous criminals.”

There was a waxwork of the crime scene in Madame Tussauds in Blackpool.

Madame Tussauds, Blackpool (courtesy Visit Fylde Coast)

Meanwhile, in prison, Fred Sewell was involved in a notorious effort to escape. A riot of inmates had been planned and co-ordinated by him, and using this as a cover, he used a false key to try to get free.

A policeman and his dog tried to stop Sewell. He sprayed them in the eyes with chemicals. However, the dog was tenacious, and it managed to capture him. Eight other prisoners did escape, but all were captured soon afterwards.

Carl was promoted to Inspector in 1976, but by the 1980s he was suffering the effects of the gunshot wound. He was forced to retire from the police force on medical grounds, in 1982.

For a while he part-owned a taxi company, but he found the cold weather caused him severe pain and he was forced to step down from that position.

On his retirement, Ian Hampson became a police historian.

The road outside Blackpool Police Station was renamed Gerry Richardson Way.

In the year 2001, Sewell was released from prison, having served 30 years. By now, he was a millionaire, having run a property empire from his prison cell.

In his proper retirement, Carl Walker took up gardening and D-I-Y. However, his doctors emphasised that to lessen the effect of his injuries, he needed to keep moving. Consequently, he took up fell walking in the Lakeland Hills, which became a real passion for him.

He also was an active member of the VC/GC Association (Victoria and George Cross). Carl was also awarded the ‘American Federation of Police Legion of Valour’ medal.

Carl’s wife, Kathleen, died in 2018.

When Carl died, he was given a police guard of honour at his funeral.

It is believed that Fat Freddie Sewell is still alive – now in his nineties.

RIP – Robbery Interrupted (by) Pandacar.

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