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Three men quizzed on suspicion of murdering off-duty Manchester policeman in late-night street brawl

By Dean Wilkins

Three suspected murders remain in police custody after an off-duty officer was killed in a street brawl after getting out of a taxi in Stockport yesterday.

PC Gareth Francis was walking home with friends after a night out in Manchester city centre when he was assaulted at around 1.20am on Castle Street, Edgeley – emergency services found him with a serious head injury.

The 28-year-old officer was rushed to Stepping Hill Hospital where he tragically died – three men, aged 20, 20 and 21, were arrested on suspicion of murder.

PC Francis’ family paid tribute to the young officer, who joined Greater Manchester Police sic years ago.

They said: “Our gorgeous son brought love and laughter into not only our lives, but he was an amazing brother, boyfriend, grandson and nephew.

“We cannot imagine how we can face each day knowing that he is gone from our lives.”

Gareth joined GMP in 2007 and at the time of his death was serving at West Didsbury Police Station, based on the South Manchester Division.

Detectives are continuing to appeal for witnesses.

Stockport Divisional Commander, Chief Superintendent Chris Sykes, said: “First and foremost I would like to pass on my condolences to both Gareth’s family and his colleagues in South Manchester.

“Gareth was a dedicated police officer with six years’ experience and he will be greatly missed by his colleagues.

“However, the loss will be even greater for Gareth’s family and I would like to reassure them that we have a team of detectives working round-the-clock now to establish exactly what happened.

“Gareth’s colleagues on the South Manchester Division have been dealt a terrible blow by the news and welfare is being provided to any members of staff affected by this tragedy.”

Anyone with information is asked to call GMP’s Major Incident Team on 0161 856 9283 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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