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Happy birthday to an officer and a gentleman

PUBLISHED: 09:54 13 July 2011

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Derek James wishes former Norfolk detective Dick Bass a happy 90th birthday.

As a police officer he worked on some of the most notorious and heartbreaking Norfolk crimes and mysteries – they included the disappearance of April Fabb in 1969 and the discovery of the headless body at Cockley Cley five years later.

There was also the murder of Susan Long, the Norwich Union clerk whose body was discovered at Aylsham in 1970, and the Heidi Redding murder at Downham Market.

Dick Bass was, as a skilled scenes of crimes officer, at the forefront of these and many other investigations and his colleagues tell me he was always admired for his patience and tolerance at such terrible times.

Dick retired from the Norfolk Constabulary, holding the rank of detective inspector in 1980 after 28 years of exemplary service.

Today, he is celebrating his 90th birthday surrounded by family and friends and I would like you all to join me in wishing Dick a very happy birthday.

The people of Reedham, where he lives (he has been called “Mr Reedham”) have already done that at a party in the village hall last weekend, but he doesn’t know about this special tribute.

Dick was born on July 13, 1921, at Taverham Hall, a nursing home in those days. His parents lived in a cottage in The Street at Ringland. His dad, also called Richard, worked for the council and was a lay preacher.

He went to the village school and then to City of Norwich School. Even in those days he was known for his patience – and immense sense of humour.

After leaving school he worked with Jarrolds the printers and when the war came along he served with the RAF where he spent a dozen years and reached the rank of flight lieutenant.

He spent some of the war as a wireless operator gunner on flying boats in the Indian Ocean. On one occasion, the plane was stranded in the Seychelles where Dick made friends with a local family – a friendship which continues today. He is still in touch with Helene, a member of a family he got to know.

On Boxing Day 1945, he married Doreen at St Barnabas Church off Heigham Street, Norwich.

They eventually settled in the city and Dick left the RAF to join the police force.

Dick served in the much-loved old Norwich City Police Force and was at the forefront of tackling crime, but he didn’t find out who stole his chicken which he kept at the old Hellesdon railway station just before Christmas of 1955!

He reached the rank of sergeant, but in 1958 his career changed course and he became a detective specialising in scenes of crime. Ten years later, the city force ceased to exist and he was transferred to the Norfolk constabulary,

He retired in 1980 as detective inspector and he and Doreen, she has since died, moved to Reedham where he was involved in many groups and organisations and was also President of the Royal British legion in the village.

Dick has always been a great supporter of both the Norwich city Police Association and the Norfolk branch of the National Association of Retired Police Officers. He is celebrating his birthday with family – he has two daughters Susan and Jane and four grandchildren, Matthew, Katie, Kelly and Benjamin – and friends.

“He is,” said former police officer Basil Kybird, who helped me tell Dick’s story, “a wonderful caring man as a police officer, husband, father, grandfather and a friend of many. A true gentleman.”

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