Greater Manchester Police chief constable Sir Peter Fahy has named the two officers killed this morning during the capture of ‘one-eyed fugitive’ Dale Cregan as Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes.
Miss Bone, 32, and Miss Hughes, 23, had eight years’ service between them.
The unarmed officers – who attended a ‘routine incident’ at a home in Hyde – were injured when ‘at least ten shots’ were fired, according to police.
One of the wounded officers was killed at the scene and a second, who was rushed to Wythenshawe Hospital, tragically died less than two hours after the incident.
Sir Peter revealed that Ms Bone was planning be married and had spoken to her fiancé about invitations only this morning.
At a press conference at the GMP headquarters in Newton Heath, Sir Peter said it was one of the darkest days in the history of the force in Manchester.
“We are devastated today by the loss of two of our officers,” he said. “Fiona Bone had five years’ service and Nicola Hughes had three years’ service.
“Clearly this is one of the darkest days in the history of GMP, if not the police service over all the UK, because we have lost two colleagues and because of the huge efforts officers had been making to arrest and detain Dale Cregan.
“Officers involved in that operation have been shattered by their deaths.”
At 11am this morning Cregan was found at a home in Hattersly, Hyde, after the two officers were called to a burglary at the address Abbey Gardens.
The two officers were then gunned down and injured in a grenade explosion before the gunman drove off in his silver BMW and handed himself into police.
“We believe that Cregan was in a house in Abbey Gardens overnight and at some point this morning either himself or someone on his behalf called the police to report a burglary,” Sir Peter added.
“This address was not known to us or part of our investigation.
“But it is routine for unarmed officers to attend the scene and when they arrived it appeared then that Dale Cregan emerged into the road and killed these two officers – a firearm was used and a grenade was also used.
“We are unsure of the exact cause of death until a post-mortem examination takes place.
“Cregan then went to a local police station and handed himself in.”
GMP have been hunting their most-wanted man since August 10 after David Short – the father of Mark Short who was gunned down in a put in May this year – was found dead at a home in Clayton.
Cregan, 29, and Anthony Wilkinson, 33, were sought in connect with the murder and after 23 days, Wilkinson was caught by armed police.
Sir Peter said that locating Cregan since the murder of David Short had been the top priority for GMP.
“This has been a huge investigation for us we have had great support from other forces,” he added.
“We have had some of our best officers on this investigation, we have issued more than 50 firearms warrants and made a number of arrests.
“We have used all forms of publicity to try and locate this man.
“We believe that he has been protected by a criminal conspiracy to harbour him and we are absolutely determined to investigate the conspiracy and bring the people involved to book.”
On the 39th day of the hunt for Cregan, GMP had issued a nationwide warrant for his arrest – including a £50,000 reward – and the investigation was costing the force £150,000 a day.
They had urged Cregan not make matters worse for himself and to contact police in order to avoid a disastrous ending, as was seen in Tameside today.
“This case tells us something about the nature of organised crime,” Sir Peter added.
“Since that event (David Short’s murder) we have had officers on armed patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the Clayton and Droyslden area – but clearly we cannot send armed officers to the hundreds of incidents that happen in these areas and the surrounding areas.”
Sir Peter paid tribute to the two serving officers who died while trying to protect and serve their community, and said that GMP are in mourning for their loss – the flag at their headquarters has been lowered to half maste.
He said: “These were two officers going about their normal duty, they go into dangerous situations, unexpected situations and show great bravery and great courage and are with people in the very worst moments of their lives and that is exactly what these two officers were doing.
“Clearly we are a regularly unarmed force but we are passionate about the British police being routinely unarmed, and sadly we know that from experiences in America and other countries from having armed officers that police do not end up getting shot dead.
“Our thoughts and our condolences go out to the families and friends of these two officers and particularly their colleagues who work with them day in day out – and of course they are absolutely shocked and distressed at the events of this morning.”
Officers were seen around the crime scene with tears in their eyes and an emotional Sir Peter spoke with sincerity and heartfelt affection about the loss of two young officers.
“When Fiona first joined the shift she was quite quiet and reserved,” he said. “She was so happy with her partner and she was in the middle of planning her wedding – her partner only spoke to her this morning about the wedding invites and fellow officers gave her advice about how to make them.
“Her fellow officers said they loved being partnered up with her 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.
“Nicolda Hughes was 26 years old she was very bubbly and enjoyed life and socialising she was a chatterbox and always smiling – even after a night shift when everyone was a bit grumpy.
“She was a good listener and couldn’t do enough for people, she was a good friend and a great bobby.
“GMP is in mourning today for two very brave police officers who exemplified the very best in British policing.
“We will bring to justice all those who have been involved in the incidents and events and harbouring those responsible.”