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Hero cop would not give up

PUBLISHED: 19:03 16 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:12 03 March 2010

AS the freezing water numbed their bodies Neil Smith knew he had to keep clinging to the barely conscious young woman if she was too survive.

Although submerged up his waist PC Smith refused to release her from his grasp until firefighters were able to pull her from the River Gipping.

AS the freezing water numbed their bodies Neil Smith knew he had to keep clinging to the barely conscious young woman if she was too survive.

Although submerged up his waist PC Smith refused to release her from his grasp until firefighters were able to pull her from the River Gipping.

The drama was played out in front of Saturday night revellers near Stoke Bridge in Ipswich after the woman had fallen in to the water.

Pc Smith's brave actions happened when the dog handler was quickest to respond to an emergency call at 11.10pm.

"There were a few people waving and saying she's over here," said Pc Smith. "The woman was very distressed. I suppose the water was about 20ft down from the wall.

"She had managed to get to a piece of chain attached to the wall. She was submerged up to the bottom of her rib cage and was perched on a tiny little ledge no wider than a foot."

The 36-year-old officer returned to his van. Leaving his dog Feist inside, he grabbed a tracking lead measuring around 20 feet and returned to the wall.

He tied the leash to a metal ring embedded in the concrete, took off his coat and made the descent into the water wearing just his trousers and shirt.

"I just scrambled down the wall hanging to the rope," he said. "The water was up to my midriff. There was just enough room to perch my toes on the shelf under the water. She just wrapped her arms around me.

"It was so cold I couldn't hang on with one hand. There was a point where the woman passed out."

Pc Smith said he called up to firefighters and fellow officers to throw down a rope while holding on to the tracking lead and chain with his left hand.

Pulling the woman toward him he somehow managed to get the rope around her with his right hand so she could be hauled up.

"I couldn't have held on much longer," said Pc Smith. "She was very, very lucky. On another night she could have drowned. I couldn't have done it without my colleagues or the fire service."

It is believed the woman was in the water for about 20 minutes and Pc Smith for around a quarter of an hour.

They were taken to Ipswich Hospital after their ordeal but neither suffered any serious injuries.

"I sat beside a radiator and had a cup of tea to get warm again," said Pc Smith "Then I went home, got changed and went back to work."

Inspector Ben Cook, who was on duty in Suffolk police's control room at the time of the drama, applauded Pc Smith for his courage.

"The river down there has very high walls and once you are in you are in. It was a decision he made and a very brave one to make," he said.

N If you were the woman saved by Pc Smith telephone the Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788.

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