Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Friday, 27 November 2009

Emotional send off for compassionate officer

By James Lynn
BBC News in Egremont

Hundreds of mourners attended the service for Pc Bill Barker

There had been heavy rain in Egremont for much of the morning, but by the time mourners began to arrive at the church, the rain clouds had given way to blue sky.

Barriers were erected on nearby streets in anticipation of a high turn-out and the residents of the Cumbrian market town did not disappoint - the pavements were packed with people of all ages.

Outside the church, the popularity of Pc Bill Barker, who died when a bridge collapsed during last week's floods, was evident.

As well as the 500-strong congregation of family and friends gathered inside, scores of his uniformed colleagues lined the entrance, testament to the esteem in which the veteran officer was held.

As the hearse arrived, those gathered outside bowed their heads and the waiting officers snapped to attention for the former traffic policeman, his widow Hazel and his children Emma, Daniel, Melissa and Simon.

Cumbria Constabulary has lost a dedicated and committed officer who spent 25 years of his life serving the communities of Cumbria
Chief Constable Craig Mackey

Pc Barker had a passion for motorcycling and his casket was borne into the church by six of his closest friends from the force's road policing unit.

Ten officers, also from the unit, formed an honour guard at the entrance as the coffin was carried inside.

As the ceremony started at 1pm, officers and staff from across Cumbria police joined a one-minute silence to show solidarity in paying tribute to their colleague.

Supt Gary Slater was among those who spoke movingly during the service about his friend Bill - "a simple man who lived by simple principles, to whom family was everything, friendship a precious gift and duty an honour to fulfil".

Police officers
Police officers formed a guard of honour at the funeral

He said Pc Barker had been decorated several times, including being awarded a chief officer's certificate of merit for developing the role of family liaison officer (FLO) with the road policing unit.

Supt Slater said the father of four had received numerous letters of appreciation from the families of those killed on the Cumbria's roads, praising the support they received from him.

"It is ironic that his beloved family have now had to experience the very procedures that Bill helped develop and affect in his desire to support others," he said.

Det Con Jim Rooney, one of Pc Barker's closest friends, also spoke of the "big lad's" compassion and said he was one of the best FLOs in the force.

Animal menagerie

He told the congregation: "Bill was the FLO that FLOs looked up to, and I can say that there were none of us that could have come close to what he did for the family's that he worked for."

But the focus of Pc Barker's was his wife and children, said Det Con Rooney.

Pc Barker's coffin
Pc Barker's coffin was carried into the church by six of his closest colleagues

"The centre of Bill's world was Hazel, Simon, Melissa, Daniel, Emma, and the menagerie of animals that make the Barker household the most unique house I have ever had the pleasure to go into," he said.

"The house is unique because of the warm, loving welcome that everyone gave me."

As the ceremony drew to a close, Chief Constable Craig Mackey said: "Today is all about Bill and his family.

"This is a very sad day. Cumbria Constabulary has lost a dedicated and committed officer who spent 25 years of his life serving the communities of Cumbria.

"As a trained family liaison officer, Bill dealt with families that experienced loss. It is now our job to do that for Bill's family."

Pc Barker's coffin was flanked by Cumbria police motorcyclists as he was taken for burial at Egremont cemetery.

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