Norfolk bobby wins Lithuanian honour

No one normally gives a second glance to the unassuming policeman walking his beat on Yarmouth seafront.But while PC Gary Pettengell is happy to maintain a modest profile at work in Norfolk he is soon to be thrust into the spotlight of publicity - in Lithuania.

No one normally gives a second glance to the unassuming policeman walking his beat on Yarmouth seafront.

But while PC Gary Pettengell is happy to maintain a modest profile at work in Norfolk he is soon to be thrust into the spotlight of publicity - in Lithuania.

The 42-year-old father of three has attracted enormous interest in the Baltic state through his efforts to learn Lithuanian to enable him to communicate with the migrants who have settled in Yarmouth.

And hot on the heels of his story being told on the front page of Lithuania's biggest selling daily paper Lituvos Rytas, he has been nominated for a prestigious Pride of Lithuania award.

A film crew from the state's main commercial channel, TV3, followed PC Pettengell round Yarmouth yesterday to create an in-depth profile that will be broadcast ahead of a glittering awards programme early next month.

He was shocked to be told yesterday that he was being invited with his wife Sarah, also a Yarmouth-based police officer, on an all-expenses trip to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius for the awards night.

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The station's London correspondent Vytas Rudavicius, on his first visit to the Norfolk coast, said: “Viewers will be invited to vote for the winners and Gary will be competing against nominees from all walks of life, including doctors and nurses, who have done something exceptional.

“What is extraordinary is that Gary is from England but his efforts to help Lithuanians have already made him quite a celebrity back home.

“People in Lithuania thought it was amazing that he should go to the trouble of learning their language to help people who have just arrived in Norfolk. It was all the more striking to them because police officers in Lithuania are sometimes seen as arrogant and not very helpful.”

PC Pettengell said: “I could not understand why they wanted to come and film me and I was totally shocked when they told me I had been nominated for an award and had been invited out to Lithuania.

“It will be live television so I will really have to brush up on my Lithuanian in case I have to give a speech.”

He recalled he had the idea of learning the language three years ago when about 50 Lithuanians arrived in Yarmouth among the first group of East European migrants.

“I started learning from a phrase book I bought off the internet and a CD set I used in the car. I might only have pidgin Lithuanian but the people here appreciate it. It goes a long way to be able to say hello, goodbye and how are you,” he said.

PC Pettengell, Norfolk's community police officer of the year, has since gone on to set up the Welcome to Norfolk website designed to help migrants with practical information on such topics as setting up a bank account and finding a GP.

He said: “One of my key aims has been to encourage people to report racist or criminal incidents and tell them we want to know about these things.”

Chief Insp Steve Grimmer, his station boss, who was also filmed by the crew, said: “The award nomination is well deserved as Gary is an officer who is passionate about his job and always goes that extra mile.

“He has helped to break down barriers and provide help with everything from housing to schools.”

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