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QUEEN'S `HERO' COP WAS DRUNK ON DUTY; EXCLUSIVE: Disgraced officer honoured in the Mall.

Byline: BY AMARDEEP BASSEY

A DISGRACED police officer who died when he smashed his head on a mechanical digger after getting drunk on duty has been honoured in a national memorial unveiled by the Queen.

Pc Tony Salt was supposed to be keeping watch on an illegal West Indian drinking club, called a shebeen, when he left his secret observation post to go drinking at a pub with colleague Pc Mark Berry in 1989.

He drank more than eight pints before later trying to get into the illicit club in Green Lane, Small Heath, Birmingham, to get even more booze - but was turned away by doorman Tony Francis.

As he staggered back to his hide-out Pc Salt, a 30-year-old dad of three, slipped and smashed his head and neck on a JCB digger, which builders had left parked overnight on the road.

The body of the father-of-three, from Aldridge, was discovered the next morning and a murder hunt was launched by West Midlands Police.

Three West Indian men, including MrFrancis, were later arrested and charged with his killing after officers from the now disbanded Serious Crimes Squad forced them to confess theyhad attacked and robbed him.

Francis, Mark Samuels and Peter Gibbs, all from Birmingham, were eventually cleared of all charges and awardedpounds 100,000 compensation in an out-of-court settlement with the force. Last night, a friend of Mr Francis said the family was disgusted to learn the name of Pc Salt had been included in the roll of honour which names 1,600 officers who have been killed on duty nationwide.

She said: ``Tony Francis and the othersspent months on remand for a crime that the police knew they could not have committed because no crime had taken place.

``The police knew exactly what had happened but they covered up the facts and made him out to be some kind of hero who died in the line of duty.

``His name should be taken off the memorial. It's just another slap in the face for the families of those who were wrongfully accused of his murder.''

Her views were echoed by former West Midlands Police Authority member and Wolverhampton Councillor, Milkinder Jaspal, who said Pc Salt's inclusion was a `fraud'.

He said: ``By having this officers name listed alongside genuinely heroic officers who died while doing their job, is nothing less than a fraud.

``It detracts and sullies the honour of all the other officers mentioned on the plaque.

``The whole Pc Salt affair and the subsequent cover-up left a bitter taste which has not been forgotten by a lot of people who were affected at the time.''

Sir Geoffrey Dear, West Midlands Police's Chief Constable at the time of Pc Salt's death, said last night: ``I can understand the reaction from somequarters, but I have an open mind on the issue of his name appearing on this roll of honour.

``Technically, he was on duty albeit in unusual circumstances and he was acting in a way that was not in the best interests of the force.

``To focus on just one name on the roll detracts from the main purpose of the memorial. Its importance should not be diminished by one individual.''

Pc Salt's partner, Mark Berry, gave four different accounts of what happened on the night and was eventually retired on full pension suffering from `high anxiety'.

There was never a full inquest into the death of Pc Salt.

The National Police Memorial, located in the Mall, London, is the brainchild of celebrity film director Michael Winner who launched a campaign 20 years ago after the death of Wpc Yvonne Fletcher. Unveiling the glass and marble monument last month, the Queen said the `courage and personal sacrifice' of those it represented was an `inspiration' to others.

The leaders of all three main political parties broke off from campaigning to attend the ceremony

CAPTION(S):

CLEARED: doorman Tony Francis was falsely accused; FLASHBACK: hunt for clues after Pc Salt's death in 1989
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 8, 2005
Words:664
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