Two police officers nominated for bravery award after rescuing woman from freezing river in Bedford

The current was so strong, it almost swept her and one of the officers away

By Clare Turner
Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 12:01 am
Updated Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 9:06 am

Two Bedfordshire Police officers who dived into a freezing cold, fast-flowing river to rescue a woman have been nominated for The National Police Bravery Awards.

PC Matthew Garfitt and PC Russell Mapley attended a call in early February and were told a woman was having a mental health crisis.

They were informed she had run away from a hospital, having tried to hang herself the night before, and had also threatened to jump in front of a train.

PC Matthew Garfitt and PC Russell Mapley

She had made it to the River Ouse in Bedford, where other officers heard her on the phone to a support agency, saying that she loved her children. Then they heard a splash and saw her jump into the fast-flowing river.

PC Garfitt and PC Mapley attempted to use life buoys to rescue the woman but they failed to reach her as she was being carried away by the current.

PC Mapley jumped into the river and grabbed hold of the woman; who was now in considerable distress and freezing cold.

The current was so strong, PC Mapley struggled to bring her to the edge, so PC Garfitt jumped in and swam to help.

Other officers on the river bank tied a number of buoys together and threw them to PC Mapley, who grabbed them, and the officers managed to pull all three people to safety.

The other officers pulled the woman on to the bank and checked her vital signs; she was unconscious. A passing nurse assisted before an ambulance arrived. The woman regained consciousness and was taken to hospital. She is now being treated by the NHS for her mental health.

Stephen Bozward, Bedfordshire Police Federation chair, said: “PC Mapley and PC Garfitt did not hesitate to act to save the life of the female.

"In fact both of them had to be helped from the water by other officers, as they were so cold and exhausted from fighting the very strong current. The river was swollen and full from recent flood water and the weather was only just above freezing.

“We are proud of these officers’ brave and selfless actions, putting themselves in danger to save a woman in trouble.”

As well as being nominated for The National Bravery Awards, both officers are due to be awarded a Royal Humane Certificate and a Chief Constable’s Bravery Commendation.