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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Tribute to heroic Carlisle PC shot by fugitive

The widow of an heroic policeman shot and injured in the line of duty has paid tribute to a “gentle giant”.

Alex Archibald photo
Pc Alex Archibald in hospital after being shot at Oxenholme station

PC Alex ‘Archie’ Archibald of the former Carlisle City Constabulary was shot at Oxenholme railway station in February 1965 while trying to apprehend fugitive John Middleton.

The father-of-three endured a lifetime of pain from his bullet wound but it was bowel cancer that finally claimed his life on November 9.

Cumbria police had been sent to scour the area for Middleton, whom they knew to be armed and dangerous, when they found him hiding in the station waiting room.

PC George William Russell was shot and fatally injured while Alex Archibald was hit in the spine.

Mr Archibald’s widow Helen, pregnant with their second son at the time of the shooting, said: “None of them had guns. All Alex had was his truncheon but he didn’t get a chance to use it.

“Middleton shot him as he went to hit him with the baton. Alex was lying there spread-eagled on the platform. He had the gun right up against his head ready to kill him when someone shouted out and distracted him.”

She added: “You could more or less say that our life stopped. He was in constant pain every minute of every day of his life until he died.

“As he was getting older it was getting worse and he was becoming more disabled.

“But he was always happy-go-lucky. He had a sense of humour and could be sarcastic but he was there for everybody: if anyone wanted to talk he would listen.

“He was a gentle giant, a big man. He was six ft two.

“His police number was 557. Whoever is wearing it now, I hope he is as good as Alex was.”

Mr Archibald, 76, was awarded the British Empire Medal for his courage.

Two hundred armed officers and 20 tracker dogs descended on the area in a dramatic manhunt which ended in a shoot-out in nearby fields.

It is believed that Middleton shot himself in the head and suffered brain damage. The 24-year-old was not fit to stand trial and was committed to a mental hospital.

After the shooting Mr Archibald took a police desk job, unable to return to the beat. He retired from the force on medical grounds in 1967.

He had played football and darts and enjoyed a drink.He had served in the army and operated cranes for British Pipe Coaters at Leith Docks.

His funeral was on Friday. He leaves his wife Helen, sons Stuart, David and Gary and five grandchildren.

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