TRIBUTES have been paid to John Hancock – the ‘village bobby’ in Mere for nearly 30 years – following his sudden death on Thursday, May 21.

John, 71, had a lifelong connection with the Wiltshire Force having joined as a police cadet in 1965 before serving as a police officer from 1968 through to his retirement in 1997.

After retiring, Mr Hancock returned as a volunteer at Mere Police Station and was a well-known face in the front office – a post he held until his death.

In this voluntary role, John was a regular fixture at the local café – running a drop in session for members of the community to receive advice and information.

In a tribute, his family said: “John was the most kind and loving father, husband and grandfather. This has been such a shock to us all and our hearts are broken.

“John loved his cycling and he loved walking his dogs so for him to collapse so suddenly has been a real shock for us all. We never got to say our goodbyes.

“We would love to hear any memories from those who knew him – he was a very popular man in Mere and was well loved by everyone. Our hearts are completely broken.”

Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said: “It was John’s dedication to his voluntary role and his enthusiasm in offering his services to all aspects of volunteering, that saw John receive the Police Support Volunteer of the Year award at last year’s South West Region Special Constabulary and Police Volunteer Awards ceremony.

“It was a real honour and a privilege to present John with his award and say thank you for his significant contributions over the years and I know he will be hugely missed by all those who knew him.”

Wiltshire & Swindon Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said: “John dedicated his entire life to the police force, including an impressive 23 years as a volunteer.

"His contribution to the force has been enormous and he was well known amongst the local community in Mere.

“John and his wife Rita were due to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary this year – our sincerest condolences go out to Rita, their daughter Angela and the wider family including John’s granddaughter Chelsie who I am told is keen to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and join the police one day.”

PC Rich Salter, who knew John as a colleague and friend for over 25 years, said: “John was the embodiment of local policing

"He clearly made an impression on me because 10 years after his retirement, I returned to Mere as the Beat Officer.

"He was a fount of all knowledge regarding Mere and an absolute asset to our small team. He will be sadly missed by us all – never were there a truer gentleman.”

As a mark of respect for the many years that John dedicated to policing, the Force flag will be flown at half-mast at Police Headquarters.

A small family funeral will be held at 11.30am on June 10 at Semington Crematorium. His family intend to hold a memorial service once it is safe to do so.