Police killer Harry Roberts – arrested by Stevenage officer – due to be released from prison

Harry Roberts was sentenced to life in prison after killing three police officers.

Harry Roberts was sentenced to life in prison after killing three police officers. - Credit: Archant

The Police Federation has said “life should mean life” ahead of the planned release of police killer Harry Roberts, who was arrested by a Stevenage officer.

PC Geoffrey Fox was killed by Harry Roberts

PC Geoffrey Fox was killed by Harry Roberts - Credit: Archant

Roberts, who was arrested by Sgt Peter Smith on November 15, 1966, is due to be released from Littlehey Prison in Cambridgeshire after serving more than 45 years behind bars.

The decision has draw widespread criticism from various organisations including The Police Federation of England and Wales.

The group’s chairman Steve White said: “I am appalled to learn that police killer Harry Roberts is being released from prison. Let’s not forget, this menace murdered three unarmed police officers in cold blood and it is abhorrent news.

“This decision by the parole board is a slap in the face for the families of the three police officers he brutally murdered who, once again, are forced to re-live their pain and loss. It will spark fury among everyone in the police family who will feel badly let down.

Det Con Dave Wombwell died after being shot by Harry Roberts.

Det Con Dave Wombwell died after being shot by Harry Roberts. - Credit: Archant


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“We pride ourselves on having a largely unarmed police service in England and Wales. However, in turn, we expect the judicial system to provide the deterrent needed to help protect police officers from injury or serious harm while doing their duty.

“In May 2013, the Home Secretary said she would introduce legislation to make sure life really does mean life for people who murder police officers. We cannot go on waiting – this needs to happen urgently.

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“This decision by the parole board will do nothing to give confidence to police officers and the public that the most serious and dangerous offenders will remain behind bars.”

Roberts had instigated what became known as The Massacre of Braybrook Street in East Acton, London, in which three officers, PC Geoffrey Fox, 41, Sgt Christopher Head, 30, and Det Con David Wombwell, 25, were shot dead by Roberts and an accomplice.

Sgt Christopher Head, who was shot dead by Harry Roberts

Sgt Christopher Head, who was shot dead by Harry Roberts - Credit: Archant

This led to a huge manhunt which lasted 96 days and involved thousands of police officers countrywide.

Speaking to the Comet in 2006, Sgt Smith, who made the arrest, said: “That morning at six o’clock I left Stevenage with PC John Allen, of Datchworth.

“We went searching Mathams Wood, and I was on the outside of the wood, about 500 yards from it, as part of an armed police cordon.

“I was standing by an old disused hangar filled with bales of straw. I took out my revolver for my own safety. Nobody was with me.

“I began to search the hangar and as I walked through the bales of straw I noticed a bottle of methylated spirits. The time was 11.50am.

“I pulled a bale of straw down and then saw a little Primus stove, a torch and a Luger gun or pistol, and a few other odds and ends.

“Obviously someone was either sleeping there or had been sleeping there. I pulled another bale away – and below it was Roberts.

“He was inside his sleeping bag. He made no response at all. As far as I was concerned he was just a sleeping bag, lying in the straw.

“He came out and that was it, I took him away.”

Roberts was given a life sentence for the murders of the three policemen, all from London, and since his arrest has become something of a cult figure – inspiring numerous football chants and songs as well as being the inspiration for the character of Billy Porter in Jake Arnott’s book He Kills Coppers.

Although his 30-year tariff expired in 1996, parole boards repeatedly rejected his appeals for release until earlier this year.

A date for Roberts’ release has not been set but it could be in a matter of days or take a number of weeks.

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