Clacton: Support 'Overwhelms' PC Family

The family of an Essex police officer shot dead as he went to protect a member of the public have thanked the nation for its support.

Speaking after a memorial service to Pc Ian Dibell in Clacton, his girlfriend Louise Lilley, herself a police community support officer, said she had received message of condolence and support from people across the community.

Essex Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle revealed relatives of Pc David Rathband, blinded by Raoul Moat and found dead at his home earlier this year, and Pc John Henry, stabbed in Luton in 2007, had also sent cards of condolence.

Nicole Dibell, Pc Dibell's sister-in-law, said outside the service: "We would like to thank Essex Police and the wider policing family for their help through this devastating time and for making Ian's memory and send off a fitting tribute to the hero he was.''

Miss Lilley said: "I wish to thank everybody around the nation and in my own local community for the messages of condolence and support I have received.

"I have been truly overwhelmed by the kindness of so many. I'm not sure if I will ever be able to fully understand why the events of July 9 happened, but I am aware that Ian was a true hero."

Home Secretary Theresa May (pictured), dressed in black, joined police officers of all ranks as they paid tribute to Pc Dibell.

Hundreds of people packed St James Church in Clacton-on-Sea to remember father-of-two Pc Dibell, 41, who was killed near his home in the Essex seaside town while he was off duty on July 9.

The memorial service was attended by Pc Dibell's family, chief constables from neighbouring police forces, rank and file officers and members of the public.

Officers from Essex Police held a guard of honour at the entrance to the church.

A message of condolence from the Prince of Wales was read to the congregation.

In his tribute, Charles said Pc Dibell's death served as a reminder of the sacrifices officers make and the dangers they face.

He added that he learned of the death with "the heaviest of hearts".

Several members of the congregation broke down in tears as Miss Lilley delivered her tribute to the father of two.

She said: "Thirty-seven days ago I was blissfully unaware that my normal, contented life was about to be destroyed."

She added that the couple, who were due to begin a holiday in Spain today, had recently begun living together.

"I felt excited, happy and complete,'' she said.

"Ian loved his community and was on speaking terms with everybody.

"Most of all he was a real family man."

At the time of his death, Pc Dibell had been off work with a hand injury suffered while on duty. He had spoken of his frustration at being unable to do the job he loved.

Miss Lilley, herself a mother of two, addressed him, saying: "You did make a difference and you stood by your beliefs."

Mr Barker-McCardle told the service that the ultimate duty of a police constable was to protect life.

He added Pc Dibell had displayed "courage, bravery and gallantry".

"It is not the uniform that make a police officer," he said. "The uniform make be taken off at the end of a shift but the sense of duty is there at all times, even in the face of immediate danger.''

It is thought Pc Dibell was going to the aid of Trevor Marshall, 48, who was injured in the gun attack.

His suspected killer, Peter Reeve, 64, shot himself dead in a churchyard in Writtle, near Chelmsford, the following day.

After shooting Pc Dibell, Reeve went on the run, sparking a massive police manhunt.

A lower-profile private funeral for Pc Dibell took place last month and was attended by about 130 people.