Police praised after perilous manhunt

A Norfolk police officer last night described a dangerous pursuit through chilly water to catch a man wanted in connection with a series of armed robberies.

A Norfolk police officer last night described a dangerous pursuit through chilly water to catch a man wanted in connection with a series of armed robberies.

The officer and two colleagues have been praised by senior officers for their bravery after they spent nearly an hour in the River Delph at Welney to catch the man, who had fled from a crashed car and run into the marshland.

Speaking for the first time, the dog handler based at King's Lynn said there had been a few times when he and his colleagues thought they were in trouble in the water.

The other two officers were a firearms sergeant and a police constable based at Swaffham.

All three have asked not to be named.

The dog handler said: "As the tracker, I went into the water first with my dog and the other two followed.

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"I thought it would just be up to our knees, so I jumped in and ended up in thick sludge up to my neck.

"It was freezing cold, and our protective clothing and belt rings were weighing us down and there were a few times we thought we were in trouble.

"But the adrenaline took over

and we were determined to find him."

After more than 55 minutes in the water the officers, who were struggling with the onset of hypothermia, found the man holding on to a tree.

The suspect passed out and the officers had to drag themselves and the fugitive out of the water.

The officer added: "We were completely exhausted. The dog was exhausted and panicky, so he was on my shoulders, and we kept sinking and sinking.

"But eventually we found a bit of higher ground and some water so we just swam into it."

The drama unfolded on Saturday when a 43-year-old man travelling in a car on the A1101 Wisbech to Littleport road towards Upwell at 10pm failed to stop for police.

Later, the vehicle overturned in

a field near the Welney Wash and the passenger ran into the marshland.

An hour-long search followed involving police officers, helicopters and specialist units from Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

Police used thermal imaging equipment to track the suspect, who had crawled through undergrowth and reeds.

The man and the officers were all taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Lynn, for treatment for hypothermia and were later discharged. The officers all returned to work on Sunday for their next night shift.

The suspect was arrested in connection with the armed robberies inquiry and is being questioned at a Norfolk police station.

Chief Supt Tony Cherington said: "The officers used their skills and instincts to carry out what was a very brave operation. They thought nothing of risking their own safety to bring the matter to conclusion."

The 24-year-old woman who was driving the car suffered minor injuries and was treated by paramedics at the scene.

She was also arrested but was yesterday released on police bail pending further inquiries.

The Norfolk police diving squad conducted underwater searches in the River Delph yesterday, and a property at Huntingdon was also searched.

Three other people arrested in connection with a spate of armed robberies in west Norfolk and the fens have been released on police bail.

Det Insp Mark Beresford, of Norfolk police's major investigation team, said the investigation would continue.

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