Masked man’s pistol jammed as he tried to shoot constable

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The outstanding bravery of a former RUC constable - who confronted a masked gunman in Portstewart 35 years ago - is just one the stories of heroism recorded in a new book published by the RUC GC Foundation.

‘Honours and Medals awarded to the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC 1922-2001’, written by former RUC officer Roy Black, reveals how Constable Henry Brennan was awarded the BEM for Gallantry in 1971.

On October 9, 1970 at 2.50am Constable Brennan was a member of a mobile patrol in the Portstewart area responding to a 999 call and pursuing a suspect.

Constable Brennan was making his way along an entry when he was confronted by a masked gunman. The gunman pointed his pistol at Constable Brennan and threatened to shoot him. He ordered the Constable to drop his torch.

As he was doing so Constable Brennan struck the gunman and wrestled him to the ground. When the patrol arrived the gunman was overpowered, disarmed and arrested. On examination of the pistol it was found to contain eight rounds, one of which was jammed in the chamber and had been struck by the firing pin.

At the time Constable Brennan was just 23 and had been in the force for just a year. He was subsequently awarded the Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and the RUC Service Medal before retiring in 1995.

The 500 page book details all the awards given to RUC officers between 1922 and 2001.

Author Roy Black told The Coleraine Times: “This book is a tribute to the ordinary men and women who had the privilege to wear the green uniform, a uniform which inspired them daily to perform acts of great courage and suffer privations in the course of their duty, far and beyond that expected in any normal society.

Other local officers mentioned in the book include Chief Superintendent Reginald Graham Nigel Spears awarded the MBE (1972).

In 1970 he was appointed Divisional Commander of “O” Division based in Coleraine. He won the Police Amateur Athletics individual .22 pistol championship in 1962.

Chief Superintendent Spears was also awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977, the Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and the RUC Service Medal. He retired in 1983.

Also listed is District Inspector Francis Lagan awarded the MBE (1966). In 1970 he was appointed a Chief Superintendent and in 1974 was promoted to the rank of ACC. He was appointed Operational Commander for North Region, responsible for “N”,”O”, and “P” Divisions. District Inspector Lagan retired in 1976 having been promoted to Assistant Chief Constable.

He was also awarded the OBE in 1976, the Defence Medal, the Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and the RUC Service Medal.

“Honours and Medals”, priced at £20, can be obtained from the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC Foundation, 65, Knock Road, Belfast, BT5 6LE, Tel: 028 90700116.