VIDEO: 20 years on since police dog shot dead in Irthlingborough
20 years ago, Ian Churms was looking down the barrel of a gun after watching his police dog shot in the head and killed.
He can remember the incident like it was just a few minutes ago, saying he can still smell the gun barrel.
And while he will never forget the domestic incident he was called to that day in Irthlingborough, he also cherishes the memories he has of the dog who helped save his life.
Ian has shared these in a short video, not only recalling the day it happened but talking about the importance of police dogs who regularly risk their lives to protect others.
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The video has been released by Northants Police to mark the 20th anniversary of Bryn’s death.
A memorial was also unveiled at the force’s headquarters in Northampton recently.
Speaking in the video, Ian said: “I can remember this incident as if it was 10 minutes ago.
“I relive it and for 10 to 15 years I found that very difficult to deal with.”
And he added that he can still ‘smell the gun barrel, taste it and feel the pain.’
Ian and Bryn had already dealt with a domestic incident in Northampton when they were called to another job in Irthlingborough on February 5, 1998.
Before they arrived, it was reported that the offender, armed with a knife, had left the area and the weapon had been recovered.
But while making plans with two local officers to go to the offender’s flat later that night, screams were heard from the house where a mother and daughter were being held by him.
The local officers approached the house, but Ian stopped them, saying it was ‘a job for the dog.’
With the offender pointing a hunting rifle at the mother’s head, Ian tried to talk to him and resolve the situation without anyone getting hurt.
But without any warning, he was shot in the leg.
Ian decided to send Bryn into the house to bite his attacker but as the dog went in, a split second of confusion caused by the woman’s screams gave the offender the chance to shoot the animal in the head.
She ran past him at this point and was also shot.
Recalling that moment, Ian said: “Bryn was dead, I was incapacitated and she was lying on the ground bleeding.”
The offender put the barrel of the gun into Ian’s mouth, but luckily the woman’s screams distracted him and he dragged her towards a police van parked in the road, saying he would be back for him.
But Ian was determined not to be taken hostage and managed to crawl to a neighbour’s property where they barricaded themselves in.
The offender ended up in the house of a police officer who lived in the same road, and it was here that the offender was overpowered and arrested.
He was later convicted with a life sentence.
Ian was honoured with several awards following the incident, including a national police bravery award.
Reflecting on that day and whether he would do the same again, the retired police officer said: “Protection of life is one of our key priorities as a police officer and you have to make those decisions.
“For 20 years I have questioned whether that was the right decision - if I was in the position now, I would probably make the same decision.”
Ian cannot praise the work of police dogs enough, especially being willing to die to protect others and he says they are ‘a resource that can’t be matched by anything else.’
And while it may be 20 years since Bryn’s death, his story will never be forgotten with the unveiling of his memorial.