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WATCH: Senior police officer warns of ‘urgent and devastating challenges’ in retirement video interview

Alcohol and drugs addiction, domestic violence, and child abuse are among the most “urgent and devastating challenges” being faced by police, a senior officer in the north-east has warned.

Superintendent Murray Main made the comments during a video interview with the Press and Journal, before the 50-year-old began his retirement today.

He said: “There’s no doubt officers are operating under greater pressure and strain than at any other time in the last three decades.

“Crime may well be falling but vulnerability is very much on the rise and demand on policing time and resources is increasing.”

Supt Main spoke of his work to prevent people from being exposed to violence and expressed concern for the effects of it on children in the region.

Superintendent Murray Main, Partnerships, Preventions & Interventions for north-east police division.

He said: “Repeated exposure to violence, especially in the home and during childhood, can lead to devastating outcomes for generations.

“We know at least one in 10 of us will have had four or more traumatic experiences as children and childhood trauma is linked to worse outcomes in later life.

“Alcohol abuse, drug addiction, domestic violence, mental illness, sexual offences, child abuse and cyber crimes are just some of the most urgent and devastating challenges of our time,” he added.

In May, the P&J reported the senior officer’s call for health and wellbeing services to “step forward” and ease the strain on Aberdeen police officers whose time is considerably taken up by mental health concerns.

Supt Main, who grew up in Burghead and is the son of hoteliers, said becoming a police officer was a “lifetime dream”.

He recalled: “It’s the only thing I ever wanted to be. My earliest memories are of me dressing up in a white shirt, black tie, black trousers and black shoes, marching around the garden.”

Supt Main joined Grampian Police in September 1990, when he began uniformed duties in Aberdeen.

He later moved into the role of roads policing in Elgin – also serving in Banff and Huntly – and was specialised in collision investigation.

His only regret

Mr Main was also an advanced driver and authorised firearms officer.

But he admitted that his 32-year-long career was not without regret.

He said: “I wish I was a dog handler. I never got that chance. But I’ve been policing not just in the north-east of Scotland but right across Europe.

“I’ve even gone to Kazakhstan with Aberdeen Football Club to support them and their European journeys,” the international football match and events commander said.

In 2000, he undertook duties at Camp Van Zeist in the Netherlands for the trial of the two Libyans charged in connection with the murder of 270 people aboard Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie.

2003 Boxing Day murder of Raymond Duncan

Recalling the most notable cases of his three-decade career, the veteran police officer remembered the “chaotic scenes” of the 2003 Boxing Day murder of Raymond Duncan.

The 27-year-old was kicked and punched to death outside the then Cotton Club on Aberdeen’s Union Street.

It emerged that alcohol had played a role in the incident which led to criticism of drink promotions and scrutiny of late licences.

Supt Main said: “I was the first supervisor on scene. I remember, despite the chaotic scenes and critical challenges we were facing, officers were surprisingly calm, focused on doing their job to the highest standard.

Left to right: Martyn Anderson (Senior), John Reilly and Martyn Anderson (Junior) on Holburn Street in Aberdeen shortly after the attack on Raymond Duncan at the Cotton Club.

“They were fantastic despite the huge challenges to care for Mr Duncan, trace those believed to be responsible, identifying and protecting really difficult crime scenes and managing witnesses to the terrible events before they were handed over to the criminal investigation department.”

Martyn Anderson (Junior), 18 at the time, was jailed for eight years for culpable homicide and his father Martyn Anderson pleaded guilty to assault.

John Reilly, 18, was given two years probation for assault.

Fatal shooting of Danielle Beccan

In October 2004, Murray Main’s team were involved in tracking down one of the main suspects in the murder of Danielle Beccan, 14, who was shot dead in Nottingham.

Junior Andrews was traced by officers at an address in Aberdeen and later received a 32-year prison sentence for her fatal shooting.

The superintendent said: “Danielle was shot in the most terrible of circumstances.

“I remember not just the sheer brutality of what happened and the tragedy that was involved in the death of a young girl, but also the way by which the individuals from Nottingham had spread to Aberdeen.

Danielle Beccan, 14, was killed when a gang from a rival district of Nottingham opened fire on a group of children. Photo credit: PA.

“It was an extensive and quite a complex inquiry but thankfully, we were able to support colleagues and the individual was held accountable.

“I often reflect on Danielle’s family and what they went through and, more than likely, what they’re still going through.

“It’s one of these incidents which never leaves you.”

Brutal murder of Susan Third

Another case which Mr Main has never forgotten is the brutal murder of Susan Third which happened in February 2005.

The 21-year-old’s body was discovered in a field near Catterline.

Supt Main said: “Susan died in the most dreadful of circumstances. I remember rushing to the scene with colleagues and had no real sense of what I was going to find. It was relatively new territory to me.

“I was still very much learning my trade and I was surrounded by seasoned detectives and very experienced senior investigating officers.

Susan Third was killed at the age of 21. Picture: Grampian Police handout.

“It was a terrible crime, a difficult crime scene and at the heart of it, an innocent 21-year-old.”

Joseph Harrison later admitted strangling Susan who was also sexually assaulted before her body was dumped.

He was convicted of culpable homicide on the grounds of diminished responsibility and jailed for six years.

But Harrison was released after serving just four years.

North Sea helicopter crashes

In January 2009, Murray Main was temporarily promoted to chief inspector and led Grampian’s corporate communications department through a number of high-profile incidents, events and investigations.

They included the ditching of a helicopter in the North Sea in February 2009.

All 18 passengers on board survived but a tragic helicopter crash just two months later in April 2009 claimed the lives of 16 people on Flight 85N off the coast of Peterhead.

Mr Main said: “When I reflect back on that time, the thing that sticks in my mind is the humility by which the families responded to the worldwide focus that was placed upon them.

“I remember the many funerals and memorial services that happened at the time and the dignity by which these individuals have had to deal with their loss in such a public environment.

Wreckage from a helicopter being brought ashore after fourteen oil workers and two crew died when a Bond Super Puma plunged into the water off the Aberdeenshire coast on April 1 2009. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

“I also remember it being a very important part of my role leading the response that we made it very personal.

“We had every individual’s photograph on our board and when we spoke of them or about them, we looked at the photographs and remembered them as individuals not just simply names.

“It was a hugely testing time for everybody.

“I’m very proud of what we were able to do at that time but I also recognise that it was a huge incident, particularly for those that were directly involved with the families who’ll never recover from that.”

Stonehaven rail tragedy

Supt Main has led the response to a series of critical and major incidents during his policing career, including flooding, wildfires, and the introduction of Covid restrictions.

He faced one of his greatest challenges in August 2020 when a train travelling from Aberdeen to Glasgow derailed near Stonehaven, killing three people and injuring six.

Recalling the accident, which was caused by a landslip, Mr Main said: “The weather conditions were really poor.

The first carriage being removed from the Stonehaven rail crash site. Photo by: Paul Glendell.

“I remember the stories that were coming back at to us around the sheer scene of devastation.

“The scene was one of catastrophic impact in terms of the train and the carriages.

“In many regards, the number of individuals who were killed and injured that day would not have been the same had it been outwith the Covid period, and for that we can be fortunate.”

Retirement plans

Speaking about his retirement plans, Supt Main said he was most looking forward to seeing his family more.

He said: “I’m really excited to spend more time with my family and to give them the support that all too often wasn’t possible.

“They’ve had to deal with so many disruptions, absences, missed Christmases and birthdays.

“They’ve had to deal with the constant communications and me checking Blackberries when I shouldn’t be.

“I’ve got a very sympathetic wife who’s also in the job but my two children are deserving of more, so, I’m looking forward to being able to put them first,” he said.

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