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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 June, 2005, 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
Pc drowned saving partner's child
Jonny Speakman
Mr Speakman was five weeks into a holiday in Australia
A police officer sacrificed his life saving his partner's eight-year-old son, an inquest heard on Thursday.

Coroner Nicholas Rheinberg recorded a verdict of accidental death on Cheshire Pc Jonny Speakman, 33, who died at sea on holiday in Australia in January.

Pc Speakman, from Much Hoole, managed to get his partner's son Jordi to safety after he got into difficulties.

The off-duty officer had been body boarding at Spoon Beach near Sydney, with a friend and her three children.

The court heard Pc Speakman had gone to the beach with his partner Bonna Bamford, her three children and another couple, Joanne and Dean Hanger, and their two sons.

The five children, aged five to 13, began playing in a small bay with Pc Speakman and Mr Hanger.

Bonna Bamford
Jordi is Bonna Bamford's youngest child
But when the calm sea turned violent, all seven bathers were caught in a swirling mass of waves, currents and rip tides - described by one lifeguard witness as a "mashing machine".

Both men battled to save the children, with Pc Speakman grabbing Jordi and telling him, "Whatever you do, keep hold of the board," as he struggled to drag the boy to safety.

Passers-by managed to pull all of the children to safety as Pc Speakman and Mr Hanger were trapped by a rip tide.

The men, who were strong swimmers, managed to tread water for over an hour before they were overcome with exhaustion.

In a statement read out in court, Mr Hanger said: "Jon and I were absolutely stuffed. I could feel the lactose going all over my body."

I have been in surf clubs for years but that was one of the only times I thought I was going to drown
Stuart Harvey, lifeguard
Mr Hanger was saved by off duty lifeguard Stuart Harvey, who heard the emergency on the radio.

He borrowed a child's surfboard and swam to both men. When he realised he could only save himself and one other he took Mr Hanger to shore as he was still conscious.

"I have been in surf clubs for years but that was one of the only times I thought I was going to drown," he said.

Mr Rheinberg said both men could have made their way to safety on the beach but added: "They ensured that all the children in their charge got to safety but that left them in utter peril."

After the inquest Ms Bamford said: "Jordi was my baby and Jon knew that. He gave me back my little boy, and I'm very proud of him for that."

Pc Speakman was married to wife Jenny, who attended the inquest, but the pair had separated.

Policeman drowns saving children
31 Jan 05 |  Merseyside

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