Belfast Telegraph

Philippa Reynolds: So full of life, laughter and hope... all lost in seconds

Two charged as community mourns young policewoman hit by stolen car

By Ivan Little

The sparkling eyes and the infectious smile frozen in time by the camera capture the very essence of policewoman Philippa Reynolds.

According to her friends, she was a "one in a million" girl full of goodness who died after a chance in a million encounter with evil.

The photograph showing the Co Antrim woman on a night out was released by Constable Reynolds' family only hours after her life – which promised so much – was cut short by so-called joyriders in Londonderry, who politicians in the city said had so little to offer.

Clearly her relatives wanted the world to see the photo to illustrate the young officer's vivacious and fun-loving personality, a snapshot of a woman who was full of life.

Philippa (27) was also in the prime of her life, which stretched out in front of her, replete with hope and confidence that her decision to switch careers from teaching to policing was proving to be the right one.

And the photograph is anything but a one-off.

Whether they're at hockey matches, social or family affairs, there's a constant in the pictures which have emerged of Philippa Reynolds – the ever-present joy of a young woman who was to die so needlessly as she sat in the wrong place at the wrong time in the back seat of an armoured PSNI car on the Limavady Road in Derry in the early hours of Saturday.

It was a vehicle built to withstand bombs and bullets. But the stolen 4x4 vehicle which smashed into it after apparently jumping a red light at speed badly damaged the police car.

It's obvious from surveying the wreckage that it's fortunate that Philippa Reynolds' colleagues were able to escape with comparatively minor injuries.

She'd only been in the PSNI for a couple of years, but Philippa Reynolds had clearly had an impact on the people she worked with and on the public she worked for.

One man who knew her said: "She was seen as a rising star in the PSNI. She was 100% committed to the job and believed she could help change things in Northern Ireland. That's why she decided to leave teaching and join the PSNI."

A Facebook page operated by the PSNI in Derry has been swamped with tributes from both sides of the community to the girl who was educated at Loanends Primary School and Antrim Grammar, before going to study at Hope University in Liverpool.

By late on Sunday evening around 700 people had posted on the PSNI site, and among dozens of messages were ones from Garda Siochana officers and from the United States.

Not surprisingly, parallels were drawn by some posters between the death of the PSNI constable and the Garda detective and GAA footballer Adrian Donohue, shot dead in Co Louth last month.

One man who lives near the Reynolds family is the mayor of Antrim, Roy Thompson, who knew the policewoman through her friendship with his children.

He said: "She was a lovely, lovely girl with the most pleasant personality you could ever imagine and she was highly respected by everyone in the area.

"More importantly, she was loved and adored by her parents. She was the youngest girl in the family.

"It is just so hard to take it all in – how anyone could die in such tragic circumstances."

Another neighbour said the entire Reynolds family had been left devastated by her death – especially her distraught parents who were reported to be trying to get home from a visit to America, where there's been widespread disruption because of recent snow storms.

On this side of the Atlantic, several of the playing fields at Roughfort near Mallusk where Philippa Reynolds played hockey for the Owls Ladies Club were under water and the entire complex was deserted on Sunday.

On a number of social networking sites, however, a series of tributes were paid to the club stalwart they nicknamed 'Flipper'. On Twitter, the Owls club said the thoughts and prayers went to the family of "our wonderful, friend, player and member".

One member wrote that she had lost a true friend, adding: "We have another star in the sky".

One colleague said the entire club would miss Constable Reynolds, who had been "lost protecting our community".

Another said it had been a privilege to have known an "amazing person like Philippa".

A profile of the policewoman on the Owls' Facebook page said she'd been playing hockey for 15 years at school and at Antrim Ladies before joining the Roughfort club.

It said: "Philippa plays on the 2nd XI, was captain last season but has now handed over the reins. Usually playing in defence she has moved from left back to right back this season. Occasionally she even likes to make little runs up the pitch... not too often, though.

"As our very own social butterfly, Philippa is enjoying her time playing hockey and getting to know everyone! She is also organising the social activities as the social secretary".

A number of Owls games were played on Saturday and one official, Gerry Hamill, said his team had recorded what he called "a poignant win".

Around Northern Ireland, flags on Sunday flew at half-mast at PSNI stations as fellow officers grieved, knowing it could have been any one of them who was killed in the collision.

The day before, her commanding officer, Chief Supt Stephen Cargin, spoke of how she and other officers had been "working in really difficult circumstances over the last number of weeks", but still faced the dangers because she wanted to protect the community she loved. He didn't mention the words flag or protest. He didn't have to.

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