Police Federation

National Police Bravery Award Winners 2023

Accolade awarded to 14 officers from West Midlands Police who displayed immense personal bravery, teamwork and dedication at Babbs Mill Lake tragedy.

13 July 2023


The 14 officers, PS Paula McDowell, PS Fergal Sharkey, PC Harriet Batchelor, PC Alana Grigg, PC Stewart Powers, PC Joshua Adams, PC Anthony Maginnis, PC William Finnegan, PC Fidha Akhtar, PC Olivia Studholme, PC Charanjit Chana, PC Jordon Finn, PC Jason Gilbert and PCSO Chloe Westlake responded to emergency calls from panicked members of the public after four children all under 12 had fallen through ice while playing on a frozen lake.

Within nine minutes of the first call being made on 11 December 2022, officers began arriving on scene and immediately started to wade into the ice-cold water.

The lake, at Babbs Mill, Solihull, was frozen and varied in thickness making a hard job extremely dangerous and even harder for the officers to identify where the children were under the ice.

As the minutes passed the officers realised their only option was to form a human chain to attempt to pull the young lives from the freezing water. Within moments of entering the water the officers at the spear of the chain were submerged up to their shoulders and they soon reached a five-foot drop in the lake, meaning progress without specialist protective gear was impossible. Such was the temperature of the water even with specialist gear the temperature would have proved too cold.

The extremely tough decision to exit the water was made with great reluctance. They created space to work with the Fire Service and the first child was soon brought to the shore to have the specialist care they needed, whilst the search for the remaining children continued.

Working alongside the 14 officers on scene, colleagues from the Air Ambulance and the Fire Service provided CPR and specialist first-aid to the children as they were retrieved from the water.

The children were rushed under blue lights to the hospital where efforts to revive them continued, but despite the best efforts of all the emergency services in attendance, all four children tragically died.

Superintendent Richard Harris at Solihull Neighbourhood Policing Unit said this was “without a doubt” one of the most tragic incidents he has known in his 27 years of service.

He added: “All the officers who attended this incident showed incredible bravery putting their own safety to one side in order to do their best in saving the young lives of the four boys.

“I am incredibly proud of what they all did, and I would like to thank and commend them all for their selfless act and bravery.”

Chief Constable Craig Guildford QPM said: “These officers and staff displayed immense personal bravery, teamwork and dedication in trying to save the lives of four young people. The way they went about their duties at the scene exemplifies everything a dedicated public servant stands for; they are thoroughly deserving of this award.”  


The regional winners are:

Region 1: (Lancashire): PC Sam Stinchon, PC Taylor Gregson, PC Vanessa Fowler, PC Katherine Maxwell, PC Mike McMahon

Region 2: (Durham): PC Ryan Murley

Region 3: (West Midlands): Overall winners

Region 4: (Nottinghamshire): PS Dan Griffin, PC Amy Pannell

Region 5: (Bedfordshire): Officer wishes to remain anonymous

Region 6: (Gloucestershire): PS Steve Wilkinson, PC Josh Norris

Region 7: (South Wales): PC Owen Bedford, Insp. Paul Ramsay, DI Paul Graham and an officer who wishes to remain anonymous.

Region 8: (Met 2): PC Andrew Cushing


Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “As Prime Minister, I am acutely aware of the pivotal role police play in our society. We depend on officers to fight crime and keep us safe. This is public service of the most noble kind and everyone working in policing has my enduring gratitude and admiration.

“Every day, thousands of courageous individuals in policing put the needs of others first. They make sacrifices and confront danger so the rest of us can go about our lives freely and safely. That is something we should cherish and celebrate, which is why the Police Bravery Awards are so special."

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