The police are “our last line of protection against the savagery of the jungle”, a bishop said today as prayers were held in memory of two policewomen murdered in a gun and grenade attack.
The Rt Rev Mark Davies, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury, told churchgoers in Hattersley where the horrific killings took place that the community “must stand as one” to avoid such deaths being accepted as “commonplace”.
Pc Nicola Hughes, 23, and Pc Fiona Bone, 32, were targeted on Tuesday as they were called to a report of a burglary in Hattersley, Greater Manchester.
Pc Bone died at the scene in Abbey Gardens on the Hattersley estate in Mottram while her colleague lost her life a short time later in hospital.
Bishop Davies led prayers for the officers, their families, friends and colleagues in a homily at morning Mass at St James the Great RC Church in Hattersley.
He said that Pc Hughes and Pc Bones were met with “merciless and ferocious violence” as they responded to an emergency call for the safety and protection of the community.
He said: “Today, with so many across the world we remember and hold in our prayer these two police officers together with their families and loved ones and the many colleagues who deeply mourn their loss.
“We feel a sense of sorrow and outrage too. We recall how what is good in the dedicated service of the community met on our own streets with what is evil in the hate and violence which did not hesitate to indiscriminately kill.
“The sound of gunfire and a grenade exploding in the streets of this parish, the death of two young women fulfilling their duty, tragically reminds us that the police service stands as our last line of defence against the savagery of the jungle.
“If our children are not to grow up accepting the murders of Tuesday as commonplace then the police and the community must stand as one in defence of human life, overcoming whatever obstacles may prevent this trust.
“The police are there to protect us, but our protection must also be found within ourselves – in the moral values on which our homes and families are built, in the strength of our community. The commandments of God, St Augustine reminds us, were written first in our hearts before they were written on tablets of stone – they are accessible to everyone with a conscience.
“’You shall not kill’ commands us in the name of God to value every human life as sacred. May these tragic events which have left everyone horrified, never allow us to lose sight of those commandments, those moral foundations on which the peace and life of our whole society is built.”
Bishop Davies told the congregation that he knew the people of Hattersley had ``come through the darkest of days'' half a century ago following the ``unspeakable evil of the Moors Murders''.
He said that once again it was a time to renew the faith that evil will not prevail in the end.
About 50 parishioners attended the church, which was a third full.
A two-minute silence was also held and candles were lit in front of photographs of the two officers.
The service was part of a pastoral visit to Catholics in the area which falls within the Diocese of Shrewsbury.
A remembrance service was also held in Pc Hughes’s home village of Diggle, Oldham, with a book of condolence to be put on display for the public to sign at Kiln Green CE Church.
A service of reflection was to take place at St Michael & All Angels CE Church in Mottram to offer members of the community the opportunity to come together to remember all those who have been affected by the tragic events.
The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police told BBC1’s Songs of Praise - to be broadcast today – that the force was “a family” and his faith was important to him after the “very, very dark day”.
Sir Peter Fahy said: “I think a lot of us feel passionately that policing is a vocation. It is a calling.
“I feel that in terms of my own faith but I know a lot of officers that don’t have a faith, but feel exactly the same.
“You do often feel so helpless, so praying for the dead officers, praying for their families, becomes your own reaction, your own expression of hope really for them, at a time of great need.”
Sir Peter added: “We believe very much in what Robert Peel laid down for us back in 1829, that we are a routinely unarmed police force, that we use the minimum of force and that we have this close, very close, connection with the community that we serve, and that is really, really important to us.”
Dale Cregan, the man charged with the murders of Pcs Hughes and Bone, will make his second court appearance tomorrow at Manchester Crown Court via videolink from HMP Manchester.
Cregan, 29, of no fixed address, is also accused of the murders of David Short, 46, and his son, Mark, 23, and four attempted murders across east Manchester.
Police arrested a 15-year-old boy at a school in the Hattersley area on Friday afternoon.
The youngster was held on suspicion of assisting an offender – understood to be Cregan – and was released on bail until September 27 pending further inquiries.
A police cordon remains surrounding Abbey Gardens with stacks of floral tributes accumulated on a grass verge to the side.
Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan said the investigation was a “complex and sensitive operation” as he urged the public to “search their conscience” and pass on any relevant information.