December 10 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
From early morning shifts restraining nightclub drunkards, to the chilling unsolved murder which still haunts him – the memories of Sgt Mark Goodbody’s career will stay with him forever.
But now the long-serving policeman has finally come to the end of a 30-year career which encapsulates the highs and lows of life as a Norfolk market town bobby.
Sgt Goodbody spent the majority of his career on the Breckland beat, with 17 years in Thetford and the past eight years in his home town of Dereham.
He said he was proud to have been a front-line officer all the way up to his retirement – even though the hurly-burly of operational policing left the 54-year-old with a cracked rib just a fortnight ago while trying to restrain a suspect in Watton.
Now he hopes to swap his uniform for a set of overalls to start a painting and decorating business, having already ordered his business cards in the name of The DIY Guy.
But he said he would miss the colleagues he would be leaving behind.
“This is still a job that you can have a great laugh with,” he said. “Coppers always moan, but there are moments of high humour every week.
“I think the team I have got in Dereham is probably the best I have ever had so I am quite sad I won’t be there to see them grow and get their promotions.
“At the same time, I won’t miss having to get up at the crack of dawn, or stand outside a nightclub at four in the morning with sleet running down my neck, and I won’t have to be out in a windy field looking for a missing person.
“It is not a job for everybody, but I have never regretted doing it, and it has been a good home for me.”
Sgt Goodbody said the most harrowing memory of his time on the force was the hunt for the killer of Watton teenager Johanna Young, who went missing on December 23, 1992. The 14-year-old’s body was found three days later on Boxing Day, but her murderer still eludes the police.
“I worked on that murder inquiry for eight or nine months,” said Sgt Goodbody. “That is the highest-profile case I have ever worked on, and it is the one where we didn’t get a result – and I wished we had.
“Even now, if I am working on December 23 I will always go and drive around the relevant scenes in Watton, just in case something sprang to mind.”
Sgt Goodbody joined Norfolk Constabulary in 1983 and spent his first two years in Norwich before being posted to Dereham in 1985. He worked in Thetford from 1988 until 2005, when he returned to Dereham as a custody sergeant. He has served in the town ever since.
“Even after 30 years, the job has not changed,” he said. “We go out and lock up bad guys and we try to help people who need it.
“If it is a market day, I don’t tell my PCs to go out an arrest people. I want them to go out and chat to people and show their face. It is not sexy or exciting, but the public love it and it is a big part of what we do.”
The retiring sergeant said there were important differences between policing big cities and the close-knit surroundings of a market town.
He said: “If you police in Norwich, you can deal with someone and then never see that person again for your whole career, whereas here in Dereham I could be dealing with someone for an offence, and then two weeks later I could be giving them some bad news or talking to them as a victim of crime.
“Because you deal with people again and again you learn to talk to them more and to be a bit more empathetic. I have always thought that if I was fair and honest with people, there is no reason why they shouldn’t return the favour.
“I’ve even had people in custody who have come up to me later in the street and said: ‘You had me in a cell but you treated me well and gave me a lift home’.”
Sgt Goodbody lives in Toftwood with his wife Lindsey, who works as a teaching assistant. Their daughter Charlotte lives in Wrexham.