Memorial planned to honour five police officers killed in Newton Hill coach crash in 1978
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PCs David Bulleyment, 31, Eric Renshaw, 45, and Colin Ross, 33, WPC Lillian Sullivan, 41, and WPS Elizabeth Burton, 40, all lost their lives when their vehicle overturned in the tragedy at Newton Hill in May 1978.
The coach had been carrying the officers and dozens of their colleagues to a Police Federation conference in Blackpool. Another 23 were injured.
An inquest into the deaths of the officers later heard that the coach’s brakes had failed.
After 45 years, plans are in place by Wakefield Council to install a permanent tribute to the officers.
It comes after the completion of a £9.7m major redevelopment of the roundabout, on the A650 to the north of the city centre.
The long-awaited work includes new carriageways to improve traffic flow, pedestrian crossings, traffic lights and cycling lanes.
The memorial plan is part of a second phase of work at the roundabout, which includes landscaping public land next to the roundabout and tree planting.
Details of the plans were revealed at a full council meeting.
Michael Morley, cabinet member for planning and highways, said: “It is an absolute delight that it is finished now.
“There will be a memorial to all the police officers that were killed in that tragic coach crash in May 1978.
“We will be marking that with a ceremony.”
Councillor David Pickersgill (Labour, Wakefield North) asked: “I think it is unfortunate that it has taken us this long to do a proper memorial to the police coach crash.
“I think it would be good to have plenty of notice so that we can have a wider community attendance.”
Coun Morley said the council is consulting with the Police Federation and local residents on the tribute.
He added: “We will give plenty of notice so they can attend.”
The idea for a memorial was first raised in 2019.
Speaking at the time, Police Federation chairman Brian Booth said: “We think it’s a fantastic idea. We’re fully supportive of it.
“It’s absolutely the right thing to do to remember them. It was a massive tragedy and it’s important we recognise the contribution of those officers to society.”
Neil Bulleyment, son of PC Bulleyment, said: “I think the idea is long overdue to be honest.
“I’ve seen various police forces up and down the the UK all pay tribute to the officers they’ve lost, and I think West Yorkshire should too.
Mr Bulleyment, who was aged four at the time of his father’s death, added: “I think since 1978, something has been lacking, even if there was just a small plaque there it would have been nice. It’s a great shame really.”
How Wakefield Express covered the tragedy in May 1978
The Wakefield Express’ May 19 edition, published four days after the accident, reported that investigations into the crash were ongoing and likely to take several weeks.
Although there were early indications that faulty brakes may have been to blame, the newspaper said safety concerns had been repeatedly expressed about the roundabout since it had opened in 1973.
It was said that four lorries had overturned on the roundabout in the 13 months prior to the fatal accident. Local residents were set to take a petition to the district council, lobbying for changes to be made to the road layout.
In its comment piece for the week, the Express said that the way a motorway link road fed into the roundabout made it “virtually a T-junction”, and suggested that the island itself was too big and signage was “inadequate”.
It wrote: “The whole country recoiled in shock and horror when the news bulletins came out on Monday.
“A ghastly coach crash in Wakefield had taken the lives of five police officers, two of them women.
“A massive wave of sympathy went out to the families and colleagues of the victims and with it the inevitable question, ‘How did it happen?’
“Experts have lost no time in trying to find out, but there is a strong body of local opinion that the answer is not far to see.
“To them, it lies in the construction of the Newton Hill roundabout, which they claim is conducive to accidents.”