The tragedy of a life cut short

William Stringer, 15, had everything to live for. On 23 August 2013 he went for a swim in a river in Biggleswade and tragically drowned.

Sergeant Dick Skinner was one of the first officers on the scene…

I was the duty sergeant for the north of Bedfordshire when I found out about the incident.

The control room radioed me to say there was an incident involving a child in water.

Any call involving a child in danger instantly fills you with dread and I attended as a matter of urgency.

When I arrived, the situation was a little frantic. William had gone into the water and hadn’t been seen for some time. His friends were there and were clearly shocked by what was happening.

I spoke to the officers who had been first on scene, liaised with fire and ambulance regarding the on-going rescue attempt, and ensured the friends at location were cared for.

It was also really important to make sure that William’s family were contacted as soon as possible, and provide them with accurate and immediate updates.

I deployed further officers to provide a cordon, to ensure the emergency services who were working to find William could work in a safe environment.

Sadly, despite the best efforts of the emergency services, William wasn’t found that evening.

It was heart-breaking having to leave the scene when the search was stood own for the night.

I couldn’t stop thinking about William left alone in the water, but there was nothing else we could do until morning.

We left officers to protect the scene overnight so we could begin again at first light.

PC Alexander Knibbs was one of the officers who took over…

I attended in the early hours of in the next morning to take over where William was seen entering the river.

When I arrived, there was a large number of William’s family and friends who had been up all night waiting for news.

On seeing the family your heart always sinks, even more so in this case because of his age and the circumstances.

When family and friends see new officers arriving, they expect to hear news or have an update, but often you won’t have anything new to tell them.

While I was standing at the point William was last seen, daylight broke.

I could see what looked like a body.

You know at that point that a family’s worst fears have come true.

What started out as a group of friends having fun ended in tragedy.

The next morning, Sergeant Skinner awoke to the tragic news…

I heard on the morning news that William’s body had been found.

It’s always a tragedy when someone loses their life, but especially when they are so young.

You never forget incidents like this; they will always be with you.

You think about the family and friends left behind, the tragedy of a life cut short.

Fortunately we have a lot of support within the force to cope with incidents such as this, and we also find talking to our colleagues helps.

Few officers want to burden their families with the often distressing details of what they have dealt with during the day.

Swimming in unsupervised open water is incredibly dangerous, but a lot of people, especially children, don’t understand the risks involved.

So I’d urge people to think twice this summer before being tempted to jump in.

It really isn’t worth it.

The Royal Lifesaving Society UK has created two short films to help raise awareness of water safety. You can watch them here.


4 thoughts on “The tragedy of a life cut short

  1. Irene Craig 25 June, 2015 / 4:32 pm

    Well done for the work you do.Police get a lot of stick from people who have no idea of the things they face daily. You are a credit to the community all of you.


  2. Michelle 25 June, 2015 / 7:35 pm

    It’s the worst thing anyone can go through! When I was told what had happened my world was in bits my life had gone from a happy go lucky family to hell within seconds, I just fell to bits 😦 my family will never recovery from what happened!! I just don’t want any other parent or child to go through what we went through !!


  3. martin stringer 26 June, 2015 / 11:31 am

    its been the most horific time of our lives we all miss him beyond words lets hope that some good will come of this and maybe prevent another tragic loss i miss my son so much rest in peice will see you soin love dad


  4. Sheryl 20 July, 2016 / 8:10 am



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