Off-duty police officer Special Constable Richard Downs, of Hertfordshire Constabulary, will receive national lifesaving award

An off-duty police officer, who thwarted a man's bid to commit suicide using exhaust fumes after driving into a farm field at Redbourn, is to receive a national lifesaving award.

Special Constable Richard Downs, of Hertfordshire Constabulary, was hailed a hero by society secretary Dick Wilkinson as he announced that the officer is to receive a Certificate of Commendation for his actions at a field off Little Revel End Lane, Redbourn, on May 6.

"Although SC Downs was off-duty, he went above and beyond the call of duty in investigating this incident, and his fast response likely proved the difference between life and death," Mr Wilkinson said as he announced the award at the society’s headquarters in London.  

"His heroic actions clearly merit one of our awards."

Mr Wilkinson said that SC Downs was off duty at home, when he received a call from a farmer neighbour who had confronted the man as he tried to drive into one of his fields.

The man smelt of alcohol and was abusive when challenged. SC Downs told his neighbour to ring the police should the man return but he called SC Downs again 20 minutes later to report that the man had gained access and driven to a point a long way from the road.

Mr Wilkinson continued: "SC Downs decided to investigate and, as he approached, he could see three pipes coming from the exhaust into the tailgate and noted that the engine was running. "

The windows were steamed up but, as he banged on the door, he could see movement inside.

The door opened and, inside, he saw a man, who appeared collapsed.

"As SC Downs called 999, he could see a kitchen knife in the car, so he moved it out of reach of the driver and then reached in and switched the engine off.

"He was concerned about the reaction of the man as he came round and he engaged him in conversation. The man was taken to hospital, where he made a full recovery."


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