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The murder cop who gave it all up for love... and life on the farm

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 18/11/2015

Carolyn Crooks and Jeremy Hobson at their chicken farm in Eglish, Co Tyrone
Carolyn Crooks and Jeremy Hobson at their chicken farm in Eglish, Co Tyrone
Carolyn Crooks
Damilola Taylor

A former murder squad detective in the Metropolitan Police who now helps run one of Northern Ireland's largest chicken farms has revealed the career change was all for the love of a good man.

Carolyn Crooks was a police officer in London for 12 years before she returned home to Northern Ireland a few years ago.

The 50-year-old now enjoys being down on the farm in Co Tyrone, helping to look after the 160,000 chickens reared there.

The ex-Met sergeant investigated the murder of Damilola Taylor, the 10-year-old boy stabbed to death by other youngsters in 2000.

But despite the demands of running the farm in Eglish, outside Dungannon, life is a lot quieter for Carolyn.

By chance she met up again with former boyfriend and farmer Jeremy Hobson on a night out and they rekindled their romance. She told the Belfast Telegraph: "Jeremy and I went out in our 20s, but I went off to London to university and he stayed at home.

"We both married other people and those marriages ended.

"We happened to meet up again at a social event.

"We started to talk and that was that, really.

"When I initially came back home seven years ago I was working for our local council. But I took six months off work to help out when Jeremy's mother died.

"That turned into two years, and then it became permanent.

"I now work with small, white furry animals and no matter how busy it might get, it's nothing like what I was used to in London."

Carolyn, from Cookstown, and Jeremy feature in The Chicken People, a new three-part programme starting tonight.

They are one of the largest producers of poultry for Moy Park.

The documentary features the couple as some of the farmers who help produce a third of the two million chickens that are served up to be eaten in the UK every day.

They rear the select animals from day-old chicks for a number of weeks depending upon the size required by Moy Park.

"Jeremy jokes that I'm the labourer and he's the brains of the operation, but it really is his farm and it was his decision to start chicken farming years ago," explained Carolyn.

"I do most of the admin work and the regular checks during the day, and Jeremy does most of the work at night, as the chickens are collected then.

"It took me a while to get used to chicken farming, but I'm proud when I see that the chickens are clean and healthy and are well looked after."

The Chicken People is part of BBC Northern Ireland's Taste North food season and goes behind the factory gates to a chicken processing plant in Dungannon, and meets those at the centre of chicken production.

It begins on BBC One NI tonight at 10.35pm.

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