Sunday 25 February 2018

MP's police officer father was injured during Handsworth riots - by a squirrel

MP Mike Wood's father was bitten by a squirrel when he went into the police stables to prepare his horse during riots in 1985
MP Mike Wood's father was bitten by a squirrel when he went into the police stables to prepare his horse during riots in 1985

A Conservative MP has recalled childhood memories of his police officer father being injured during riots - when he was bitten by a squirrel.

Mike Wood said he remembered returning home from school during the "horrific" 1985 Handsworth riots in Birmingham to find his pale-faced father with a bandaged hand.

But the Dudley South MP said he and his mother's worries were soon calmed when it emerged his father's injury had been inflicted by a squirrel while preparing his police horse for duty.

Speaking during the second reading of the Riot Compensation Bill, Mr Wood said: "This issue has a particular personal relevance.

"Growing up the son of a West Midlands policeman, I was all too aware from a young age of the impact of riots on local communities and on those responsible for policing them.

"I remember as a nine-year-old child waking up to see the horrific footage of the Handsworth riots in September 1985.

"It brought home in the most literal sense the terrible reality of a breakdown in law and order.

"My father, as a mounted policeman, had been called into work early in response to the violence and destruction that I was then seeing on television.

"I remember coming home from school just as my father returned home earlier than usual. His hand was bandaged and his face pale.

"I'm sure you can imagine what was going through my mother's mind.

"Mr Speaker, as we're between friends and perhaps more importantly my father is not a regular follower of BBC Parliament, I might be safe in letting you into his little secret - that day he had gone into the police stables to prepare his horse where I'm afraid he was bitten by a squirrel.

"Fortunately that was the most serious injury my father suffered in those riots.

"But tragically, others were not so lucky. Two brothers brutally burnt to death in the post office they ran, two other people unaccounted for - 35 more injured, more than 1,500 police officers drafted into the area and potentially into the line of danger."

Shadow Home Office minister Lyn Brown said she was worried to hear the story about a "rogue squirrel", joking: "As a city girl who has only just started to experience these creatures in her back garden, it's made me a little more wary of my contact with them."

Press Association

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