CARLISLE Crematorium’s chapel was not big enough to hold the hundreds who went to the funeral service for PC 1724 Nick Dumphreys.

Despite it being a bitterly cold day, nearly 600 people went to the service, which celebrated the life of the 47-year-old roads policing officer and father of two, following his death in a crash on the M6 on January 26.

Many of those present were colleagues of the hugely popular officer. They heard a series of moving tributes.

Among those who spoke was the officer’s close friend Adam Fletcher, for whom PC Dumphreys was to be best man at his wedding next year.

“Nick was a giant of a man in more ways than one,” said Mr Fletcher. “I’m not just referring to his big bald head, which made him look like Shrek.

“He had giant gorilla arms for open hugs; big hands for firm, manly handshakes; and, depending on how close he was to his next fitness test, a big Buddha belly for resting a pint glass on.

“But most of all he had a giant heart, full of love, kindness, and understanding for everyone he met.”

Mr Fletcher recalled how he had first met Nick Dumphreys in September, 1997, when they both went to Newton Rigg College near Penrith. He had been just 16, and PC Dumphreys 24.

Even at that stage, PC Dumphreys had worked as a police officer in his native South Africa, and as a lifeguard in New York. “Nick was a gentleman and my best friend.

“I have always felt immensely lucky and proud to think of him in that way. He has always been there for me – no matter what. It’s incredibly humbling to discover that he touched so many different people’s lives in exactly the same way.”

Nick had been excited at the prospect of being his best man next year, and had a head full of ideas for the occasion.

“Most of all, he couldn’t wait to do his best man’s speech,” said Mr Fletcher. He added: “I’m quite sure that come the big day he will be there in spirit, guiding me through yet another of life’s big milestones.”

The service began after a gleaming black hearse drove slowly into the grounds of Carlisle Crematorium carrying PC Nick Dumphreys, the coffin draped with the flag of the officer’s native South Africa.

Standing at the roadside, their heads bowed in silent tribute, were scores of uniformed police officers, including roads policing colleagues.

A wreath of white flowers in the rear of the hearse spelled out 1724 – the collar number worn so proudly by PC Dumphreys during his 17-year police career. After the hearse came seven motorcycle outriders, their blue lights flashing, sirens silent.

There was also a tribute from Chief Inspector Richard Quinn, who worked with PC Dumphreys in Brampton. “Once met, never forgotten,” was how the officer summed up PC Dumphreys. “He was a big man, a big personality, and he had a bigger heart,” said Chief Inspector Quinn.

“If I could describe him in three words, it would be funny, caring and professional.”

“He was thorough in his work; he was serious when he needed to be and he was a true cop’s cop.”

The service heard also from PC Dumphreys’s brother Matt, who said his brother was always cheerful, always smiling and ready with a joke.

The service closed with an emotional statement from Kat, the adoring wife of PC Dumphreys, who said: “Life was one big adventure with you... Thank you for choosing me: you made me the happiest girl alive.” Some people quietly shed tears as her words were read aloud.

After the service, Cumbria’s Chief Constable Michelle Skeer said that the massive turnout for the funeral – including from the county’s other emergency services – stood as a powerful tribute to PC Dumphreys.