TAMESIDE, ENGLAND (BNO NEWS) — Two unarmed police officers were shot and killed by a murder suspect when they responded to a report of a burglary in the Manchester area of northwest England, officials said on Tuesday. The gunman later turned himself in at a police station.
The incident happened shortly before 11 a.m. local time on Tuesday when two unarmed police officers were called to investigate a reported burglary at a house in the Abbey Gardens area of Hattersley, which is located in Greater Manchester. Gunshots and an explosion rang out shortly after the officers entered the building.
Residents living near the scene said the house had stood empty for several months and investigators believe 29-year-old fugitive Dale Cregan or someone helping him called in the burglary report to draw officers to the location. It is believed Cregan fired at least 13 shots before causing an explosion with a grenade.
Medical teams were quickly on the scene to provide treatment to the injured officers but one of them died at the scene while the second officer died a short time later while undergoing emergency treatment at Tameside Hospital. Cregan later turned himself in by walking into a nearby police station.
“This is a dark day for policing in not only Greater Manchester, but in the UK as a whole, as we have lost two valued members of our team,” said Chief Constable Peter Fahy of Greater Manchester Police. “Our thoughts are with their families, friends, and of course colleagues, at this immensely difficult time.”
The victims were identified as 23-year-old police constable Nicola Hughes and 32-year-old police constable Fiona Bone. “Nicola and Fiona exemplified all that is best in British policing, by putting others first to go into dangerous and unknown situations each day, to help people in the worst moments of their lives,” Fahy said.
The double murder shocked Britain where most police officers are unarmed due to the low number of fatal gun attacks on police. “The killing of two police officers in Manchester is a shocking reminder of the debt we owe to those who put themselves in danger to keep us safe and secure,” Prime Minister David Cameron said. “I want to offer my thoughts, along with those of the whole country, to the families, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.”
Cregan had been the center of a massive manhunt following the murder of 23-year-old Mark Short in May and the murder of Mark’s father David Short last month. “There was a huge operation in place across Greater Manchester to find Dale Cregan, with hundreds of officers and specialist units involved,” Fahy said.
Police defended their decision to release Cregan on bail after his arrest in connection with the murder of Mark Short. “It is absolutely normal in the course of complex crime enquiries that when people are arrested there are occasions where there is insufficient evidence available for them to be charged,” Fahy explained. “In those circumstances suspects have to be released on bail as there are strict time limits covering how long suspects can be held in custody without charge. That is exactly what happened in this case.”
Cregan remains in custody on suspicion of the murders of Hughes and Bone and on suspicion of two counts of murder in relation to the investigations into the murders of David Short and Mark Short. He had not been charged as of Wednesday afternoon.