Mon, Nov 21, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Six arrested over killing, wounding of UK policewomen


Police hunting for a gang of men who shot and killed an unarmed policewoman and wounded another arrested six people on Saturday in connection with the crime, officials said.

The shooting in the northern city of Bradford on Friday has reignited a long-standing debate in Britain over whether front-line police officers -- the majority of whom are unarmed -- should be allowed to carry weapons. It also prompted a former senior police officer to call for the death penalty to be introduced for criminals convicted of killing officers.

The two women, both rookie officers in their 30s, were shot when they tried to tackle a gang of three men who had robbed a travel agency in Bradford's city center.

Constable Sharon Beshenivsky, 38, died from a gunshot wound to the chest, despite wearing body armor. The mother of three children and two stepchildren had been a full time officer for just nine months, West Yorkshire police said.

Beshenivsky was killed on her youngest daughter's fourth birthday.

Her colleague, Constable Teresa Milburn, 37, received a shoulder wound and was being treated in a local hospital.

Milburn, who has a 16-year-old son and joined the force in April last year, also wore body armor. Neither were carrying firearms.

London's Metropolitan Police said that its officers had arrested five men and a woman in connection with the incident.

All were in custody and being questioned by the police, who released no further details.

Police declined to say whether the three robbers, who were armed with a knife and a gun, were among the men arrested on Saturday.

Fatal shootings of police officers in Britain are rare. According to the Home Office, prior to Friday's incident, only two officers have been shot and killed in the last 10 years in England and Wales, one in 1995 and one in 2003.

Two female officers have been killed in the past 10 years, other than Beshenivsky. One was stabbed and one was run over by a vehicle.

The incident renewed calls for officers to be allowed to carry weapons routinely.

"The time has come for an informed debate on a ballot of officers from every force on the full-time arming of the British police service," said police officer Norman Brennan, director of the Protect the Protectors activist group.

"The adage that if you arm the police more criminals will carry guns is nonsense. The police service is being outgunned on the streets of Britain day and night," he said.

The former head of the Metropolitan Police, Lord John Stevens, called for killers of police officers to be given the death penalty. Capital punishment was abolished in Britain in 1965.

"All my life I've been against the death penalty. But after the cold-blooded murder of policewoman Sharon Beshenivsky, I've changed my mind," Stevens wrote in the News of the World newspaper.

"I genuinely never thought I'd say this, but I am now convinced that the monster who executed this young woman in cold blood should, in turn, be killed as punishment for his crime," he added.

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