Joan Tait: tributes paid to pioneering female police inspector

Tributes have been paid to a trail-blazing police officer who was one of the first women in the country to become an inspector.

Joan Tait, nee Scriven, who has died aged 81 after contracting Covid-19, at times worked undercover during her high-flying career – and when she posed as a prostitute during the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry she was so convincing she was arrested by unsuspecting colleagues.

Beginning in West Sussex, she moved to the Derby area in the 1970s in uniform and later as a detective inspector, with spells in vice, special crime, fraud, drugs squads and a murder investigation.

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She was known for being tough and once famously took on three criminals single-handedly.

Tributes have been paid to a trail-blazing police officer who was one of the first women in the country to become an inspector.

After retirement she emigrated to Benidorm before coming back to the UK and finally retiring to the north east of England with her husband John.

The couple spent their final years together at the Stanley Park care home in County Durham.

She was widowed in 2018 and died late last month – one of 16 residents to die after being infected with the virus.

Derbyshire Police’s Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann paid tribute to her, saying: “While the term trailblazer is used all too often for Joan it is absolutely correct.

“Her dedication, commitment and drive as a woman in the force really laid the foundations for generations to come.

“Joan was a woman who clearly let her ability and love of the job do the talking – and she was clearly a match for anyone, man or woman, as her record of taking on three thugs single-handedly attests.

“For myself, and I am sure every other member of the police force, Joan’s unswerving professionalism and care act as a prime example of how to conduct ourselves.

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“While I never had the chance to meet her in person – I would like to put on record my personal thanks for her role in changing the service to one that has allowed me, and thousands of other women, to follow in her footsteps.

“My thoughts, as well as those of the entire policing family, are with her family, friends and

loved ones at this time.”

Mrs Tait’s sister Barbara Taylor told the Newcastle-based Chronicle newspaper how the senior officer was arrested by colleagues while she was working undercover, posing as a prostitute, during the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry.

She told the newspaper: “This was the time of the famous Ripper. The officers did not recognise her or believe her.

“This was quickly sorted but there were some very stern words.”

She recalled her sister would not be addressed as “Ma’am” by colleagues, preferring to be known as Scriv.

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