‘A credit to the police’ - that’s how the regions top policeman’s described a heroic Scarborough police officer who tackled a gunman - while out shopping with her son.
Heroic PC Sara Widdrington has been honoured with a top bravery award for her actions at the Westwood Tesco last November, when she disarmed would-be robber Robert Vogan.
She was presented with the North East regional Police Bravery Award by Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper at a glittering London ceremony on Thursday October 17. which was succeeded by a Downing Street reception with Prime Minister, David Cameron and Home Secretary, Theresa May.
PC Widdrington insists she’s not a hero, and that it was just “the right thing to do”. However, senior police officials have lined up to lavish praise on the officer, who say they are “indebted” to her for bravery.
“Her actions were truly commendable,’ said Dave Jones. Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police.
“She showed real courage and dedication whilst off duty, balancing personal risk with that of protecting the public and preventing crime.”
His comments were echoed by Steve Williams, Chairman Police Federation of England and Wales, who said: “We are indebted to officers like PC Widdrington, who do not run from danger but who choose to confront it.
“Police officers are never off-duty and it is fortunate for the members of the public in the store that day that PC Widdrington was there to bring this incident to a safe conclusion.
“Without a second thought and despite her son being present, PC Widdrington put herself in harm’s way to protect others. She’s a true credit.”
The dramatic scenes unfolded when PC Widdrington noticed an expressionless Vogan pointing a black pistol towards the cashier who was serving her at the store.
The terrified cashier glanced at PC Widdrington before running away. Fearing for customers safety, the officer ran around the checkout area and grabbed the man’s left hand, which was holding the pistol.
Forcing his arm down, she demanded Vogan drop his weapon but he replied: “No, get off, it’s loaded.”
Realising the gun was heavier than a ‘BB gun’ the concerned mother told her son to flee the shop, before quietly asking a staff member to call the police.
As the customers looked on, frozen with fear, the man asked for money.
To buy time, PC Widdrington told Vogan she’d get him cash and food, restraining him for three or four minutes until manager David Keough assited, silently mouthing “shall we get him down”, before PC Widdrington mouthed “yes”.
She kicked Vogan’s legs, taking him to the floor and restrained him until police arrived.
PC Widdrington said: “I just did it. I think a lot of other people would’ve done it whether they were a police officer or not. I think it was just the right thing to do.
“I’m delighted and completely surprised. It’s been fantastic.”
And the proud mother added: “I’ve brought my son, and to see him watching - he looked delighted.”
At the subsequent trial, a judge said PC Widdrington’s actions were “quite exceptional”.
The Recorder of York, Judge Stephen Ashurst lavished praise on PC Widdrington, as he sectioned Vogan indefinitely.
It was his third such robbery, and his second at the Westwood store, having previously been jailed for nine years for the previous robbery at the store.
At the April hearing, the court heard how the hold-up terrified the cashier so much she couldn’t stop trembling for hours afterwards, was on medication for several weeks and was attending counselling months later.
52-year-old Vogan, who had been drinking, purchased the £99 air pistol to carry out the raid, and the court heard how it could only be distinguished from a real firearm by “very close inspection”.
Vogan won’t be released without the consent of the Ministry of Justice.