Heroic policeman Jonny Speakman died saving the life of a child while on a dream holiday in Australia. The Chester man drowned when he gave up his bodyboard to save the life of a child gripped in a lethal rip tide. At a Press conference this week his heartbroken wife Jenny wept as she paid tribute to the man who was her 'world', while father Don said: 'He was proud to be a Cestrian.' NICK MURTON reports.
IF YOU'D told Jonny before he went to Australia what was going to happen, he'd have gone anyway. He'd have thought 'I'll prove them wrong'. It was the type of person he was.'
This was the view of Don Speakman, father of PC Jonny Speakman, as he faced the TV cameras and reporters who had gathered at Cheshire Constabulary's HQ in Winsford on Wednesday to hear of the 33-year-old's heroic act.
Those who felt his loss keenest, and had the most right to seek refuge from the glare of the media spotlight, had come out to tell the world about Jonny.
Wife Jenny, 32, sat silent alongside her father-in-law, pausing every now and then to wipe away a tear. She spoke only once, to say: 'He was my world. That's it.'
Sat with her were Jonny's half-sister Hailey, 19, and half-brother William, 15.
Don, 56, a retired constable now serving as a coroner's officer in Chester, bravely re-lived the moment he was told of the death of his son Jonny, from Park Road, Hoole - who, ironically, was due to have started training as a member of CID at Cheshire's £40m HQ yesterday (Thursday).
His father said: 'I am so, so proud - the way he put that child on the board, but also waited for a wave to carry him into shore - I can't put it into words.
'It is different for us though, we knew him, and knew he would have done that - done that for anybody. The other man washed out by the tide had children - if you'd have asked him who had to go, he would have said 'I would'.
'I received a phone call from a relative in America. I figured it must have been around three in the morning their time. I joked 'can't you sleep?' - and he told me to sit down, he had bad news.
'I was dumbstruck. I asked him if he was joking. He said not. Then I thought about how I'd tell Jenny. After working as a policeman for 36 years, I know there is no easy way.
'I'm just about holding it together, my years in the force are helping me cope better than perhaps other people would, but I'll be no use to anyone once he is brought back.
'We keep expecting a text message or a phone call from him. I'm just glad the last thing I did before he left was hug him. I told him to enjoy himself. He told me to look after his pet dog.'
Jonny's body will be flown to the UK in the next four days, and will be buried with full force honours early next week.
Hundreds are expected at the funeral, with Don reporting no shortage of people offering to act as pall-bearers.
'Jonny was special to everybody,' he said. 'Even those who knew him for just half an hour have been ringing up and sending their condolences. People have asked to carry his coffin.
'He will be hugely missed. The people of Chester have responded to Jonny's death. He was proud of his Chester roots. Although he was based in Warrington, he kept a network of friends in the city.
'People have been visiting my office in Chester to pay their respects.'
He added: 'I just want people to remember Jonny as Jonny.'