A police officer who rescued a young and vulnerable missing woman who was found in a river clinging to a steep bank in the early hours of the morning has been nominated for a national Police Bravery Award.
PC Joshua (Josh) Darton had only been with Hertfordshire Constabulary for a year when the incident took place and, having pulled the woman from the water, he then carried her in a fireman’s lift for around a mile across marsh land to ensure she could receive medical treatment since the area was only accessible on foot.
“Joshua acted in the finest traditions of policing,” says Geoff Bardell, the chair of Hertfordshire Police Federation which put the officer forward for the award, “He may have only been young in service but he instinctively acted to save a complete stranger’s life.
“Once he and a colleague had located the woman, he pulled her from the water and clambered back up the river bank, carrying what was in effect a dead weight, to ensure she was safe.
“The two officers administered first aid and, realising she was suffering hypothermia, felt she was in such a critical condition that they needed to get her back to their police vehicle so Joshua picked her up and carried her all the way back to where they had parked their car.
“The whole incident took place in the early hours of the morning in complete darkness. They were battling gale force winds and it was only two degrees. To add to the difficulty of the rescue, they had to negotiate marsh and bog land dotted with water courses.”
PC Andy Hendley, who responded to the incident with PC Darton, said afterwards: “It was humbling to begin with to see someone so committed to saving life with this selfless act. For someone with such a young service in the police, it was truly impressive to see and I personally was really proud of what he had done.
“The female was hypothermic at the time of pulling her out of the water and, had we not got there as quickly as we did, she would have certainly died due to the cold and, without Josh carrying her back to our car, the outcome could have been very different. Absolutely exhausted, he was more concerned about the female than anything – but he saved her life.”
The woman, who was considered medium risk, had been reported missing from home by her family and was said to frequent the River Lea, Meads and Marsh area to the north of Hertford which is vast and features challenging terrain.
A call was then received from a man who lived on a boat on the river saying he had heard splashing and screaming with a woman pleading for help.
Using their local knowledge, the two PCs ran across the Meads towards the river and the Pumping House, covering about a mile. On reaching the river, they located the woman and Joshua went down the steep bank to rescue her.
They carried out first aid at the side of the river and Joshua removed his fleece to try to keep the woman warm. She had minor injuries from the fall, was wet through and shaking uncontrollably. She had been missing for three-and-a-half hours.
Arriving back at the police car, the officers were met by an ambulance crew and the fire service.
The annual Police Bravery Awards, sponsored by Police Mutual, honour some of the finest officers in England and Wales who have performed incredible acts of bravery, while on or off duty.
This year’s ceremony, which was due to be held in London in July, was postponed due to the pandemic, but will be staged on Thursday 15 July 2021. A total of 94 brave officers from forces across England and Wales have been put forward for an award.
John Perks, chief executive officer of Police Mutual, said: “Police Mutual is, as always, proud to be supporting the National Police Bravery Awards in its 25th anniversary year. Despite having to postpone the original ceremony, your courage was never forgotten and it goes without saying to all of the nominees from 2019 that your commitment to keeping the public safe in the most demanding of circumstances shows unlimited bravery and resilience.
“This is something each and every one of you should be immensely proud of, as I and all of my colleagues at Police Mutual are on a daily basis when we see how hard your roles can be. We very much look forward to meeting you in July 2021 for the ceremony and our chance to give our thanks in person.”
National Federation chair John Apter said: “We are incredibly proud of all the nominees from across England and Wales. The actions of these courageous officers provide a small snapshot of the amazing work our colleagues carry out day in and day out.
“PC Joshua Darton showed immense physical strength, as well as courage, in saving the life of a vulnerable young woman. Such selflessness and quick thinking are inspiring in any officer – but particularly in one with only a year’s service.
“As a Police Federation, we wanted to make sure these brave officers receive the recognition they deserve in the year their actions were meant to be celebrated. We look forward to seeing them all in person – and revealing regional and national winners – when the time is right in 2021.”