Widow of murdered Sgt Bill Forth pays tribute as National Police Memorial is unveiled

The wife of a Sunderland police officer murdered almost 30 years ago has paid tribute to him as a new National Police Memorial is unveiled.

Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 11:11 am

Sergeant Bill Forth was beaten and stabbed to death on March 21, 1993, after responding to a 999 call in the Sunniside area of Gateshead.

The father-of-two lived in Tunstall.

Now his widow Gill Merrin has paid tribute to him as a National Police Memorial is unveiled at the National Arboretum.

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Sgt Bill Forth in uniform

Paying tribute to her husband of 13 years, Gill Merrin said: “Bill was a fantastic police officer, he gave the ultimate sacrifice and people need to know the enormity of that event and the impact it had on us as a family.

“He always wanted to be an officer but when we met, he was training to be a teacher. We talked at length about the goals we wanted to achieve, and I actually encouraged him to follow his dream and become and officer.

“He was Fence Houses-born-and-bred, so it was always going to be Northumbria Police for him.

“He loved the job and prior to his death he was working towards becoming an Inspector. He knew the law inside and out and was very switched on and motivated by doing the right thing.

Sgt Bill Forth

"He liked to uphold the law and was all about making sure people were treated in the way they should be, regardless of who they were, or which side of the law they were on.

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“He absolutely loved his colleagues and I remember times when he would take his guitar to work – he was really musical and loved entertaining.

“He was so just much more than a police officer, he was a family man, a great dad.”

Bill Forth and Gill Merrin

After losing Bill in such traumatic circumstances, Gill became a vocal campaigner for the safety of police officers and even took a petition to Downing Street, meeting with then Home Secretary Michael Howard and calling for protective vests to be available in all Forces.

And the following year, she had her wish.

“I’ve a lot of time and respect for what the police do and for their role in society,” she said.

“Some people forget there’s a person in the uniform who has a life and a family – they just see the authority the uniform represents.

Sgt Bill Forth's widow Gill looks at a memorial to her husband at Northumbria Police headquarters in 1993

“It’s easy to reflect on my experience now, but at the time it was so hard to keep my emotions together and so frustrating to be unable to articulate how I felt.

“I don’t think that raw grief will ever go away but thankfully our situation doesn’t happen to many families.”

Gill has moved away from the North East since Bill’s death and become a counsellor, channeling her own experience into helping others to grieve and overcome their obstacles following bereavement.

She will be attending the memorial in the days which follow the opening ceremony, for a special service organised by charity Care of Police Survivors.

To learn more about the national police memorial visit ukpolicememorial.com

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