Victims of Clutha tragedy honoured at service

The victims of the Clutha helicopter tragedy have been remembered at an annual service for police officers who have died on duty.

A girl lays a floral tribute at the scene in 2013. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Families, colleagues, senior officials and politicians from throughout the UK joined a congregation of 1,200 people in Edinburgh for National Police Memorial Day.

A wreath was laid for all those who died after a police helicopter crashed through the roof of the Clutha bar in Glasgow on 29 November, 2013.

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Those who were in the helicopter – pilot David Traill, who was attached to Police Scotland’s air support unit, and police constables Tony Collins and Kirsty Nelis – were killed when the Eurocopter EC 135 crashed into the building.

Those killed in the pub were John McGarrigle, Mark O’Prey, Gary Arthur, Colin Gibson, Robert Jenkins and Samuel McGhee. Joe Cusker was pulled from the wreckage alive but died in ­hospital.

Several members of Ms Nelis’s family, including her husband Mark, were at the event.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the service: “Each day, right across the country, police officers make an incredible contribution to our communities and we recognise and value the incredible bravery they display as they undertake their duties, often in extremely dangerous situations.

“In Scotland, of course, we were reminded again of the risks police officers face when a Police Scotland helicopter crashed on to the roof of the Clutha pub in Glasgow in November 2013.

“Ten people died that night, including the two police officers and the pilot on board the helicopter. It was a very dark day in Scotland that will never be forgotten, so it is very fitting that today a wreath will be laid in memory of all those who died.”

The memorial service, of which the Prince of Wales is patron, took place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre and was also attended by Home Secretary Theresa May, who gave a reading, Scotland’s Justice Secretary Michael Matheson and Scotland’s Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland.

Four candles were lit for the officers from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who have died on duty since modern policing began.

Mr Nelis lit the flame for those from Scotland, with the prayer: “In the rising of the sun and in its going down, in the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we will remember them.”

Sergeant Joe Holness, who founded the commemoration, said: “This special day gives us the opportunity to come 
together as a nation to remember our loved ones, friends and colleagues who have made the ultimate sacrifice whilst protecting the communities they served.

“It is an honourable day and a poignant reminder of the dangerous nature of policing.”