Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 15:38 UK

Widow of Cumbria flood death Pc speaks of loss

Hazel Barker said she and her children still find it difficult to cope

Six months after he was swept to death by floodwater, the widow of a Cumbria Police officer has spoken of the night "Mother Nature completely lost it".

Pc Bill Barker was directing traffic away from Northside Bridge, Workington, when it collapsed early on 20 November.

The father-of-four from Egremont fell into the River Derwent, which had been swollen by record rainfall.

Hazel Barker said that the family was still finding it difficult to cope after the tragedy.

Mrs Barker and the children - Simon, 17, Melissa, 16, Daniel, 14, and Emma, eight - were particularly reminded of their loss whenever it was wet and windy.

"I keep going over and over it, trying to make sense of it," she said.

"Mother nature completely lost it. She wielded her anger.

"The level of devastation caused by the elements is what you expect to see abroad. You don't expect to see that here."

Earlier in the night her husband of 22 years had telephoned from the flooded police station, where his colleagues were laughing and singing "Singing in the Rain".

'Something bad'

Later, she found herself unable to sleep, and getting up early put on the kettle, putting out a cup for her husband, who was due home from his shift.

I am sure they thought, like me, that daddy would be found and everything would be okay
Hazel Barker

Mrs Barker added: "I heard a car door. I looked outside and there was a car in the road with someone, who I thought was Bill, standing in the drive.

"I waited for the garage door going. I didn't hear it. I thought the silly beggar had left his control [for the garage door] in the car.

"I heard a knock at the front door. I was still convinced Bill had left his control. I waited then went to the garage door and lifted it. I was waiting on Bill coming around the corner, but it wasn't him."

When she saw that the visitor was a family liaison officer she immediately knew something bad had happened.

"The following few hours were a nightmare," she said.

"I was convinced he wouldn't leave us. I kept saying, 'Bill wouldn't do this to us'. Bill was indestructible. I couldn't believe it."

'Stuck in November'

Mrs Barker then had to break the news to her children.

Pc Bill Barker
Pc Barker had been with the Cumbria force for 25 years

"I am sure they thought, like me, that daddy would be found and everything would be okay. Every time a phone went, I got excited.

"That seems ridiculous now, but every time the phone went off, I was convinced they would have found him and he would have some sort of hypothermia."

Pc Barker was described by the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, as a "heroic, very brave man who died trying to save the lives of others".

His funeral service, in his home town, was attended by hundreds.

Mrs Barker said she and the children were still "stuck in November" and finding it hard to move on.

However, they were trying to build on things and were cherishing memories of happy times together.

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