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Philippa Reynolds: Tragic night when two very different worlds collided...


 The wreckage of the police car in which Constable Reynolds  (below) died in February  last year

The wreckage of the police car in which Constable Reynolds (below) died in February last year

The wreckage of the police car in which Constable Reynolds (below) died in February last year

Philippa Reynolds was a young, vibrant police officer who left home and reported for duty at Strand Road station in Londonderry on February 8, 2013 – unaware that it was the last time she would ever do so.

Constable Reynolds, a qualified teacher, left the profession and joined the PSNI because of her love of helping others.

She had the full support of her parents and sisters in her new choice of career, where she quickly endeared herself to her colleagues because of her bubbly, eager and willing nature.

On that Friday Constable Reynolds was briefed about her duties during her shift, that would run into the next morning.

Things were said to be reasonably quiet in the city with just the usual weekend activities to contend with.

Unbeknown to Constable Reynolds and her colleagues, across the River Foyle Shane Frane and Conor Clarence were several hours into a drinking binge and were doped up on drugs.

Frane in particular was completely stoned, having taken an incredible 60 benzoyl diazepine tablets.

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Clarence was also heavily drugged having taken 30 'blues' – a street-acquired form of diazepine.

Frane was born into the Traveller community in the Republic, but his parents, both alcoholics, abandoned him at two years old, leaving his grandmother and great aunt to rear him.

They did that until he was 13, when he was cast out to fend for himself.

He eventually ended up living in Belfast before making his way to Derry.

His life to date had been fuelled by drink and drugs and he amassed an extensive criminal record, including a conviction for grievous bodily harm for which he served two years in prison.

His accomplice, two years his junior at 24, also developed a dependency on both alcohol and drugs growing up in various homes and institutions.

He, too, was no stranger to the courts, although he had no history of violence.

On the fateful day Frane and Clarence, who were staying at the Simon community at Bonds Hill in the Waterside area, had staggered from one pub to another until the early hours of morning.

They eventually found themselves on Fountain Hill where they tried and failed to steal a Citroen Saxo.

Staggering a short distance, the pair managed to get into a powerful 4x4 Toyota Land Cruiser with Frane at the wheel.

It was nearing 3am as a heavily-intoxicated Frane jumped into the driving seat and roared off. Within seconds he was doing speeds of up to 80mph through the streets of the Waterside with Clarence in the passenger seat.

As Frane and Clarence set off on their deadly journey, Constable Reynolds (27) along with two colleagues left the station in their unmarked police car and set off across the Craigavon Bridge towards King Street and Glendermott Road on patrol.

Constable Reynolds was the back seat passenger and what the trio of officers talked about on their journey – as yet oblivious to the fact that Frane and Clarence, with no regard for anyone else on the road that night, were just minutes away – can only be guessed at.

As the police car approached a junction the light was green, giving them the right of way.

Frane with his foot hard on the accelerator in the heavy stolen 4x4 took no heed of the red light and had no intention of stopping.

The solid mass of the Toyota Land Cruiser slammed into the police patrol car giving the officers no chance or time to manoeuvre out of danger.

The side of the car where Constable Reynolds was sitting bore the brunt of the impact and her injuries proved fatal.

Frane and Clarence, protected by the strength of the 4x4, escaped without a scratch and despite their drunken state, callously ran from the scene with no regard for the fatal damage they had inflicted on the young constable.

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