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One of Britain’s top police officers has been found dead at home in a suspected suicide – just 12 days after retiring aged 55.
Simon Cole, a married father-of-two who had served in policing for over 30 years including 12 years running Leicestershire Police, was found dead yesterday at his rural home 10 miles south of Leicester.
His former force announced the death of its ex-chief constable last night, who also led the Association of Chief Police Officers nationally on mental health.
The force has not given his cause of death – but have confirmed the matter has been referred to the coroner, who investigates sudden unexplained deaths such as suicides.
Temporary Chief Constable Rob Nixon said Simon was loved and respected by all the force and that it is ‘hard to put into words how devastating this news is’. He is survived by his wife Jo, and children Ben and Emily.
He became one of Britain’s youngest chief constable in 2010, aged 43, but he revealed in January that he was almost never a police officer at all on medical grounds.
He applied to Leicestershire to join as a PC after graduating from university, but was turned down because he is colour blind. West Midlands Police did not have the same policy so he started there in 1988 before rising through the ranks there.Simon moved to Hampshire Constabulary and became Deputy Chief Constable in 2008 before heading to Leicestershire as Chief two years later.
He told the Leicester Mercury after his retirement was announced that recent cases that marked his life included the ‘dreadful’ murder of Kayleigh Haywood, the Hinckley Road gas explosion that claimed the lives of five people and the King Power Stadium helicopter tragedy that killed the pilot and four passengers, including Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
Former Leicestershire Chief Constable Simon Cole (pictured in 2020) was found dead yesterday morning, only days after he retired from the force
Mr Cole (pictured) is survived by his wife Jo, and children Ben and Emily
Mr Cole died in a suspected suicide at his home in rural Leicestershire on Wednesday morning
He said: ‘Our hearts go out to his family at this difficult time and we will support them as much as we can.’
‘I know Simon had a great impact on many of the communities of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and his death will be a great loss to many of the people he worked with.
‘All we can do is pull together and mourn the loss of a greatly respected man.’
Simon Cole, who grew up in Leicestershire, spent 30 years in the force and had been the UK’s longest serving Chief Constable – taking up his position in June 2010.
During the pandemic he spoke out about the importance of officers talking about their mental health, saying: ‘If you go out in a police car you first check the tyres, the siren, the oil, the lights, to make sure they all work … people are all part of the toolkit as well and this stuff matters.’
Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted: ‘I am desperately saddened to hear about the passing of former Chief Constable Simon Cole QPM.
‘He was passionate about delivering for the people of Leicestershire, the area where he grew up, and dedicated his life to policing.’
Leicestershire Police have not given his cause of death – but have confirmed the matter has been referred to the coroner
Mr Cole, a keen cyclist who lived in the Leicestershire countryside, was the county’s longest serving chief constable
Rupert Matthews, police and crime commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland said: ‘I am shocked and extremely saddened to hear this tragic news.
‘Simon Cole was the epitome of a great Chief Constable whose commitment to public service has been unswerving. We live in a safer place thanks to his leadership.’
Harborough MP Neil O’Brien, tweeted: ‘Simon was a dedicated and committed public servant, who made a huge contribution across Leics & Rutland.’
Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton said: ‘We have lost an outstanding public servant whose mission in life was dedicated to making our communities stronger and safer.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with his police colleagues and with his family at this sad time.’
Bidding farewell to the force he said they were in ‘in good shape financially and operationally’ and described his time serving ‘as a great honour.’
He said: ‘It has been a great honour to lead Leicestershire Police since 2010 and serve the communities in which I grew up.
‘Every day for more than a decade their [his officers’] unstoppable acts of bravery, compassion and determination have motivated me.
‘They have reminded me daily why I became a police officer and the positive difference it makes.
‘In my time as Chief Constable I have seen and experienced the full breadth of what policing is expected to do, and the unexpected too.
‘From Covid lockdowns and high-profile emergency incidents, to Premier League celebrations, and even the re-interment of a medieval king.
‘Throughout, however, I have been happiest when I’ve seen how the force has delivered good service to the public and built trust in neighbourhoods and communities – whether it’s been safeguarding young people, tackling complex investigations, bringing county lines gangs and domestic abusers to justice, or just having a chat over a samosa or a pork pie at a local event.’
Rupert Matthews, police and crime commissioner for Leicester (pictured) said Simon was an ‘unswerving’ public servant who helped make the communities he served safer places. Harborough MP Neil O’Brien tweeted to share his condolences after the sad news was announced
Simon was the UK’s longest serving Chief Constable at the time of his retirement, he spent the majority of his career working for Leicestershire’s police force (Pictured: Leicestershire Police headquarters)
Locally Simon represented the force on the Strategic Partnership Board, working with partners from all over the force area to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.
The force said he had a huge impact on national policing portfolios and held a number of voluntary roles from visiting university fellow to Vice President of a Guides and Scouts group.
He was also a keen sportsman chairing the Leicestershire Police Sports and Leisure Section, Force Benevolent Fund and Police Sport UK National (PSUK) Lawn Tennis, cricket and Rugby Sections.
In 2014 Simon was very proud to be awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in the New Year’s Honours List, and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts by De Montfort University. In 2020, Simon was awarded the Sir Robert Peel Medal by the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge University.
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Source: Daily Mail