Det Insp James O’Donnell was shot dead while responding to a hostage situation in 1958

BBC News article 14-12-2022

A memorial plaque honouring a detective who was shot dead close to his police station 64 years ago has been unveiled.

Det Insp James O’Donnell was killed while responding to reports that a gunman was holding his wife and baby hostage in University Close, Blackburn.

The Police Memorial Trust described the detective, who served in World War Two and was captured by the Nazis in the Netherlands in 1940, as a “true hero”.

It is the first memorial plaque of its kind to be erected in Lancashire.

Det Insp O’Donnell was shot close to Blackburn’s former police station, now the Blackburn College campus, on 13 December 1958.

He knew that the suspect had just killed a woman and shot one of his fellow officers.

‘Ultimate sacrifice’

The memorial wall plaque was unveiled by trust, which was established by film director Michael Winner.

His widow Geraldine Winner said: “By any definition of the word this man was a true hero.

“It is entirely appropriate that this memorial be placed here on Blackburn College campus as it reminds the public, especially the younger generations, of the inherently dangerous job the police do every day on our behalf,” Ms Winner added.

James O'Donnell Memorial Plaque

The memorial plaque was the first of its kind to be revealed in Lancashire

As a young officer, Mr O’Donnell left his role in the police to join the army.

After being shot and taken prisoner by the Germans in May 1940, he made nine escape attempts.

He was later awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for gallantry.

Lancashire Police’s chief constable, Chris Rowley, said: “Det Insp O’Donnell made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the community in which he lived.

“It is important that his service and sacrifice are never forgotten.

“His story is one that resonates with us all as police officers which is why so many serving officers were keen to attend this memorial service,” he added.

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