Retired former Sunderland detective reunited with the helmet he wore as a beat bobby 50 years ago after miracle find
A retired Sunderland detective has been reunited with the helmet he wore half a century ago after a miracle find sparked a modern-day investigation.
Thomas Parker, 73, joined the police in 1965 as a bushy-tailed teenager at a time when police boxes were dotted about and modern forces were still to take shape.
He began on the beat with South Shields Police and went on to spend three decades serving in what became Durham Constabulary, and then Northumbria Police, including for Sunderland CID.
After 30 years of service helping keep the communities of Sunderland and South Tyneside safe, Pc Parker retired in 1995 and took with him a lifetime of stories and fond memories.
And a surprising turn of events this week helped his days as a crime-cracking constable come flooding back.
While leading a crime prevention event in South Tyneside, PC James Gordon, who works with the Force’s southern community engagement team, was approached by a charity shop owner who had received a donation of a rare "South Shields Police" helmet.
With "PC 40 T.Parker" faintly etched on the inside of the helmet, the engagement team began to contact some of the force’s former faces on social media in a bid to trace the original owner.
Mr Parker described the moment they first tracked him down.
“I got a call from one of my old colleagues," he said. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – I thought he was pulling my leg."
The former police officer said being reunited with the helmet brought memories flooding back as reminisced about his time on the beat.
“I had a fantastic time in the police. When I started, there were 21 beats in South Shields running all the way from the town centre through to Whiteleas and Marsden. I worked in an old blue police box which had an orange flashing light on the top.
“I went on to work in the CID in Sunderland in the mid-1970s, and then in the early 1980s I returned to South Shields and worked on some big jobs there – including burglaries, rape and drug cases.
“I’m so grateful to be reunited with what is a special memento from a wonderful time in my life. I’ll make sure to find a prime spot for it in the house so I can tell my children and grandchildren about my days in the Force.”
Mr Parker was invited into South Shields’ Millbank station on Tuesday to meet Chief Superintendent Sarah Pitt, who presented him with the helmet.
He was also given a tour of the station and met some of the current officers looking to continue his legacy.
Chief Supt Pitt said: “We thought it was only right to invite Tommy into the station to hear about his days as an officer and talk about the way policing has transformed over the years.
“There was a lot of excitement among the team when we managed to track him down, and I think he was genuinely blown away when receiving the helmet which he wore as a Pc back in the 1960s.
“I’d like to thank PC Gordon who took this upon himself to reunite this relic with its original owner, and it was an absolute pleasure to chat with Tommy and hear about his days in the Force.”