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Recurring Dream …

Many years ago, I served in the British Police Force and my first posting was to a village on the River Thames.

It was pretty cushy as postings go and a relatively quiet, pleasant life. During the Summer, the village was a popular tourist spot, people took boats out onto the river, picnicked on the banks, and all was well with the world.

One day, I was called to the car park of a riverside pub. A boat was moored at the pub, and the parents told me that they had lost their three-year-old boy. Mother had gone into the village to buy provisions, taking the baby and father had stayed with the boat, fishing. Each parent thought the boy was with the other. When mother came back, they both thought the boy had wandered off.

I set up a search party, calling in units from other areas. It occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, the boy had fallen into the water, but the Father insisted that he would have heard if he had.

Eventually, we called in the Underwater Search Team and the boy was found, in four feet of water, under the boat.

He was blond, fresh-faced and dressed in dark blue. Although this happened over thirty years ago, I can remember it as if it was last week.

The usual procedure was carried out; he was pronounced dead at the scene. Normally, we would have called out an undertaker, but as he was so small, I put him into the back of the Police car and took him to the Police Station, where he was formally identified by the father.

I then had to take him to the mortuary at our nearest town, retrieve his belongings and clothing, and slip him into a fridge. He was so tiny.

The following morning, I attended the post mortem and in the afternoon, the inquest was held.

Within 24 hours, the whole episode was over. The parents and their baby went home to grieve, and that was that.

Until a few months later, when I saw on the TV the story of a boy who had fallen into a lake in the USA and after a considerable time was rescued and resuscitated.

Then the questions started.

  • What if I had found the boy, maybe by poking around with the boat hook and tried to resuscitate him?
  • Would he be alive now?
  • Did I fail this little kid?
  • Could I have done more?

I will never know.

And these questions continue to haunt me, even after 34 years, usually in the middle of the night.

And I feel guilty.

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