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Helping the families when they need it most
5:00pm Saturday 16th March 2013 in News
AFTER the IRA attack, two families in Warrington were in desperate need of guidance and support.
In 1993, family support roles did not exist at Cheshire Police.
Instead, it was left to neighbourhood officers to help relatives of victims Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball deal with their grief.
Paul Matthews was the police inspector for Great Sankey at the time of the bombing.
The 59-year-old, now retired after spending 30 years, with Cheshire Police, had little experience of supporting families suffering trauma.
On Thursday, March 25, 1993, he went to speak to the family of Tim Parry on the day his life machine was turned off at Walton Hospital.
He said: “I drove to the hospital in Liverpool and met the whole family.
“They were remarkable and so welcoming in the circumstances.
“I drove Colin and Wendy to Bridge Street and they went into JJB Sports to buy an Everton kit for Tim to be buried in.
“I saw then them every day for several weeks.
“It was quite bizarre really.
“I helped them deal with all of the media attention, and then I’d be making John Smith, leader of the Labour party, a cup of tea.”
Ellesmere Port resident Mr Matthews sought private counselling after helping the Parrys.
He said the IRA bomb changed the way Family Liaison Officers are supported.
“That role has changed a lot.
“It needed to improve because there was no exit strategy.
“There was no real awareness of the effect it was having on people left in highly charged emotional environments.
“FLOs now get all sorts of counselling afterwards, but we had to just get on with it.
“The bomb had an effect on a lot of police officers involved with it.
“After the bombing everything else seemed less important somehow.
“I’m not sure I have fully moved on from it - some things have stayed with me.”
Howard Davidson, age 57, was police sgt for Grappenhall in 1993.
After helping to cordon off Bridge Foot roundabout following the explosion, he was sent to support Johnathan Ball’s family.
The Sandymoor resident, who retired as an officer in 2005 after 31 years, said he had to focus on giving ‘all of the help I could’.
“I went to speak to Wilfe (Johnathan’s dad) who had just been to hospital to identify his son.
“I was with him for two weeks and helped do things like arrange the funeral.
“They were a family that needed support.
“I just had to give them all of the help I could.
“They were very long days.
“Wilfe was calm but immensely shocked, but he was very dignified about it all.
“He didn’t have a suit for the funeral so the staff at Marks and Spencer kitted him out, and neighbours made my officers cups of tea - they were marvellous.
“That was the toughest thing I had to deal with in my career, emotionally.”
It was a pleasure to do it, but I wish I didn’t have to.”