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Police Constable Stephen Andrew Tibble QPM (1953 – February 26 1975) was a police constable in the Londonmarker Metropolitan Police. During a chase through the Barons Courtmarker area of Londonmarker, Tibble was shot and killed by Liam Quinn, a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

The incident

Four unarmed plainclothes police officers, Temporary Detective Constables [TDC] Derek Wilson and Kenneth Mathews and PCs Adrian Blackledge and Les White in two teams had spent the day on the look-out for burglary suspects in the Fairholme Road area of Hammersmithmarker. One of the officers, PC Blackledge, noticed a man behaving in a suspicious manner outside number 39 Fairholme Road. When Blackledge noticed the same individual 30 minutes later he decided to question him. Blackledge approached the suspect and introduced himself as a police officer and requested that the man empty out his pockets. The suspect was Liam Quinn, a U.S. citizen from a Irish Republican family in San Franciscomarker who had immersed himself in all things Irish, including adopting an Irish accent. A Provisional IRA volunteer, he had replaced Brendan Dowd as a member of the IRA Active Service Unit operating in London at the time.

Blackledge noticed that Quinn was carrying a lot of Irish money on him, and so told Quinn he wanted to escort him back to the address he had been seen leaving in Fairholme Road to see what he had been up to. With that, Quinn attempted to flee, running west down Charleville Road, pursued by Blackledge, heading toward where Derek Wilson and his partner were sitting on a bench. Wilson and Mathews joined the chase and Wilson later stated that he heard the sound of a motorbike approaching from behind him. The rider was 21 year old off-duty PC Stephen Tibble, who was married and had been a serving officer for only six months. Initially flagged down by DC Derek Wilson, Tibble gave chase on his motorbike, rode past the three officers, past the running Quinn, and pulled to a stop at the junction of Charleville Road and Gledstanes Road. Getting off his Honda, Tibble crouched down on the sidewalk, spreading out his arms to block the path of the fugitive and catch hold of him. At that point, Quinn shot Tibble twice in the chest with a Colt .38 pistol. Tibble died three hours later in hospital. It is erroneously believed that Quinn fled into the tunnel at Barons Court tube station, but in fact he had been pursued by DC Wilson on Tibble’s Honda motorbike and evaded capture by running through the ground floor of a block of flats off Talgarth Road.

Bomb factory

The police discovered that the flat in Fairholme Road that Quinn had been seen entering was an bomb factory. The basement was found to contain enough bomb-making equipment to make half a dozen high explosive bombs. Also found were an automatic pistol and ammunition as well as English and Irish cash, wigs and a letter to Joe O'Connell, another IRA member and one of the Balcombe Street gang. The landlord stated to police that a ‘Michael Wilson’ occupied the flat.

The discovery of the factory led police to identify four other suspects, who later became known as the Balcombe Street gangmarker after they held a couple hostage in Balcombe Street, Marylebonemarker, London. The London based IRA active service unit had been responsible for a series of bombings and killings in England. This included the car-bomb killing of Gordon Hamilton-Fairley, one of the world's leading cancer specialists and the assassination of Ross McWhirter. McWhirter was a conservative political activist and a co-founder of the Guinness Book of Records. He was shot on his doorstep by the unit after he offered a reward for their capture.

Aftermath

Quinn escaped to Dublinmarker where he was arrested for assaulting a policeman. One of the plain-clothes police officers who encountered him in the London incident identified him, but extradition from the Republic of Irelandmarker to the United Kingdommarker was refused by the Irish courts. After serving a prison sentence in the Republic of Ireland for IRA membership Quinn, a U.S. citizen of Irish and Mexican descent , returned to San Franciscomarker, Californiamarker shortly after his release. Quinn was arrested in California by FBImarker agents in 1981 after the US government approved an extradition request from British authorities. He then instigated a 13-year battle against extradition to the UK. Quinn was extradited to England in 1988 and was tried and found guilty of murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 1988 with a recommended minimum sentence of 30 years. Quinn served 11 years before he was released, along with the rest of the Balcombe Street Gang, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).

Sympathetic members of the public donated money to PC Tibble's widow. He was posthumously awarded the Queen's Police Medal for Gallantry and a memorial was erected at the spot where he was killed on Charleville Road in Barons Court.

References

  1. The Road To Balcombe Street, Steven Moysey, Haworth (2007), ISBN 0789029138
  2. The Road To Balcombe Street, Steven Moysey, Haworth (2007), ISBN 0789029138
  3. Balcombe Street gang's reign of terror BBC News. Accessed 7 March 2008
  4. Channel 4 history. The Year London Blew Up
  5. John Stephenson, founder of the Provisional IRA, was English. Nothing strange about that.
  6. Unsafe Haven. The United States, The IRA and Political Prisoners by Karen McElrath (from Cain)
  7. Police Memorial Trust


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