Two policewomen killed in shooting in northern England

Reuters News

9/18/2012 10:59:10 AM - Reuters News

LONDON (Reuters) - Two unarmed policewomen were killed in a shooting in Manchester on Tuesday in an attack likely to reignite a long-running debate in Britain over whether officers should carry guns.

A man already wanted on suspicion of two murders, Dale Cregan, 29, was later arrested in connection with the shooting after he walked into a police station.

Prime Minister David Cameron called the incident "shocking" and expressed his condolences.

"The killing of two police officers in Manchester is a shocking reminder of the debt we owe to those who put themselves in danger to keep us safe and secure," he said in a statement.

One of the officers died at the scene and the other died in hospital, police said.

They died after attending what was described as a "routine incident" in the city in northern England. Witnesses reported hearing more than a dozen shots and an explosion.

Dozens of police cordoned off the scene and a bomb disposal truck was called in as a helicopter hovered overhead.

There was already an outstanding 50,000 pound ($81,300)reward for information leading to the arrest of Cregan who was wanted over the murders of David Short in August and Short's son Mark, killed in a shooting at a pub in May.

It is rare for British police officers, especially female constables, to be killed in the line of duty and such incidents in the past have provoked horror and anger among the public.

Most British police officers do not carry firearms, although every force has special armed units and some carry electric Taser stun guns.

Unarmed police constable Sharon Beshenivsky, 38, was gunned down and a female colleague wounded as they went to investigate an armed robbery in Bradford in 2005 leading to a heated debate over whether Britain should arm its police.

However, senior officers, politicians and "bobbies on the beat" have resisted any moves for police to be routinely armed.

"These extremely courageous officers have sadly paid the ultimate price for their selfless actions and no words can express our regret nor comfort to their families," said Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation which represents rank and file officers.

Greater Manchester Police said armed officers would be patrolling the streets to reassure the local community.

(Reporting by Peter Griffiths and Michael Holden)