Something made me check my on-line bank on 3rd December & I noticed no police pension had been credited to the account.  Assuming a glitch because of the foul weather, I thought nothing more  but curiosity made me check on Monday 6th December, now a week after the money wad due. Still no pension. The sharp intake of breath from Ian of Merseyside Pensions, was audible when I rang and announced my identity.  “You are dead”. He explained. “We had an email dated 19th November from the secretary of Merseyside National Association of Retired Police Officers; (NARPO) who said you had died. He got it from a source”.  He read an email to me. ‘I have received news that the following pensioner had died’ details provided- Can you confirm or otherwise? Believing Ian had nothing  more to impart, I emailed secretary David Anderton who had broken the news of my death to the pension department. He regretted ‘causing me distress but it was merely a query as to whether you had passed away’. ‘I can assure you I did not pass this enquiry to anyone else’. ‘Most unsatisfactory’, was my response. ‘Sloppy system, why no death certificate rather than vague word of mouth’? I chided him for not going the whole way by putting out a full obituary?’ Back came a rather aggressive response.  ‘I am not sure which sloppiness you are referring to?’  ‘Why was I lambasting him and not the pensions department?  ‘At no time did I inform them that you had died’!!. May be  the secretary became defensive as I had told him on the 12th December that I would be writing to the chief Constable of Merseyside Police as something serious had gone wrong and it needed attention. Having posted a letter to the Chief outlining my worries on 14th December I missed the post so it lingered uncollected in the mail box until the following day. I then found an emailed letter from John Murphy which had been sent early on the morning of the 14th December. It was he who had heard the rumour I had died and asked the NARPO secretary to check the facts. The Chief Constable was clearly mortified and ‘explained the incident as an extremely unfortunate & upsetting misunderstanding’.  He ended his letter by graciously ‘saying how delighted I am that you are indeed alive & well.’ ‘As ACC, you supported me as a young officer,(including promoting me to sergeant), and brought a period of refreshing change’. Doggedly, I refused to stop digging. Why had  David Anderton been silent on the CC’s involvement.  I was still suspicious.  I am aware I have enemies having been in public service for decades and I was still unconvinced this death rumour was not a spiteful and sick little joke by some of my detractors. Now 15th December,  I rang Ian in Pensions again.  This time a new thread of emails was admitted.  In response to Mr Anderton’s 19th November email – “I have received information that the following pensioner had died’.  The secretary had followed this up with the email to tell Pensions who was the source of the information. He wrote, “’Thanks, the information came from the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police.” Curious and curiouser! Now two chief constables were part of the rumour mill.  I had no idea who the CC of Thames Valley was but Google soon produced the answer. The Thames Valley web site also offered a contact email address, so the last chore of the evening was to do just that. I sent one seeking her view. On 16th December, frantically writing cards & watching the building storm, at 9.50am the phone rang and the cultured voice of the Chief Constable of Thames Valley asked if I was Alison Halford. She was deeply apologetic & she struggled to make sense of the news too that she had been the source of the death rumour. I said,  “ We don’t know each other”. “You won’t remember me” she said, “but I was a sergeant and you were a Ch. Supt.  & we met at Bramshill.  Her diary showed that she had attended a local NARPO officer bash in her own force on 19th November.  The troops were talking about me and somehow she understood or may have even in some confusion suggested maybe  that I was dead.  She struggled to put more meat back on my skeleton but she was surprised that this vague dialogue about me being ill and popping clogs had led Thames Valley NARPO to presumably have contacted their Merseyside colleagues with  the story.  She could not explain why this had been done  nor could she explain how her fellow chief in another force had put himself up to take the blame for spreading word of my demise. I thanked her for her courtesy in ringing me and having congratulated her in achieving this high promotion. I then cheekily announced that my battle for equality back in the 90s had allowed that golden ceiling to be finally breached so that women were able to become chief constables after being denied for oh so, so long. She sounded unconvinced with my great deeds but did pay tribute to the difficulties senior women officers had experienced in the past. I contemplated sending her a signed copy of “No Way up the Greasy Pole”. She would never believe how hard it had been. The 9 failed applications to become a deputy, the nasty whisperings, the phone tapping, the re-writing of police files, the  list of my alleged failings that was added to daily when I finally commenced my sexual discrimination action and so on and so forth!  All so long ago and yet the misery and injustice of that stressful period has never gone away. No wonder I was keen to find out who has spread the word that I was dead.

One Comment

  1. David Watling says:

    Being awake – as so often happebns, at an ungodly hour, i rhought to see if you were onGoogle. of course you are – and i was more than surprised tohear of your alleged demise.

    My Mother said ‘only the good die young’ from which statement i derive daily comfort. YOu may like to consider it. Mother died young, at 63, the yongest of 5 and the first to die. Must be a moral somewhere.

    Anyway, belated wishes for 2011, and for much more life. David

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