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Belfast policeman with UK's longest service record dies aged 89


Eric Martin with his wife Heather

Eric Martin with his wife Heather

A letter of congratulations from the Queen

A letter of congratulations from the Queen

Samuel Fredrick 'Eric' Martin BEM as a young officer

Samuel Fredrick 'Eric' Martin BEM as a young officer


Eric Martin with his wife Heather

A Belfast-born police officer said to have had the longest record of service in the UK has died.

Samuel Fredrick Martin BEM, who was known as Eric, passed away on Wednesday from a heart attack. He was 89.

Born in Ballyhackamore in east Belfast in 1927, Mr Martin fulfilled his life's dream of becoming a police officer in the then RUC.

Following in the footsteps of his father Jacob, a Head Major based in Enniskillen, he joined the force aged 19 in 1946 and went on to serve for 43 years.

Just three years after joining the police, after being stationed in Portrush, he met the "love of his life" Heather, who he was married to for 49 years until her death in 1998. They had no children.

Mr Martin was based at multiple stations in Co Antrim before joining the Traffic Branch in Belfast in 1962.

During his length career he reached the rank of sergeant and spent his latter years in the Security Branch before retiring in 1989.

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A car enthusiast, Mr Martin loved motors and engines and would visit car shows in London and Birmingham every year.

He was also a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and was known as "one of the best drivers" in the force.

Former colleague Jimmy Armstrong (81) paid tribute to his lifelong friend who he would visit almost daily.

He said: "If you made a friend in Eric, you made a friend for life.

"He was a quiet and very private man, he didn't socialise much.

"He was a homely person who loved reading, watching Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

"But he was mad about cars - he loved them, particularly BMWs and Mercedes, so much so he would change his every year, even when he didn't need to."

The pair became best friends after sharing a police car for six years, both serving through the Troubles.

Known as a proud and meticulous man, Mr Armstrong recalled how Eric was renowned for his high standards.

"He was about 6ft 3ins and always immaculate. He was always well turned out and spotless, his suit on and hair done," he added.

"Quite a few of the women thought he was handsome. We were quite envious of his good looks.

"He was always very fussy about being neat and tidy in appearance and in keeping his car spotless.

"He was a creature of habit too, after his wife died we would go on holiday every year to Hastings and Tunbridge Wells where Eric loved to drive to Beachy Head.

"I would visit him four or five times a week, take him a paper and then some days he'd be on the phone three times to me as long as you didn't interrupt him watching the soaps."

He added: "He enjoyed the simple things like meeting in Sainsbury's for a coffee.

"But perhaps his proudest achievement was meeting the Queen when he received the British Empire Medal for his services to policing.

"It would have been quite a sight with him being so tall and the Queen not much over 5ft.

"He was especially proud because he loved being in the police.

"It was very much his family, he lived and breathed being in the police.

"And with 43 years of service, he is the longest serving officer on the British Isles."

Having served through the Troubles, Mr Martin was pleased when the force was awarded the George Cross for bravery.

Mr Armstrong recalled how his friend was very loyal, dutiful and helpful, yet reserved.

He was also resilient having beaten prostate cancer in his late 60s.

A funeral service will be held on Monday at 2pm at Roselawn.

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