Friends, family and former colleagues of the late Simon Cole, Leicestershire’s former chief constable, will gather for a football match organized in his memory this weekend. A team from Leicestershire Police will take on rivals from the West Midlands force in Birmingham on Sunday (May 1).
It will be first time that many of them will have gathered together since learning the sad and shocking news of his death on Monday, March 30, aged just 55. His body was discovered at his home in Kibworth Harcourt just 12 days after retiring from a position he’d held for 12 years.
Sports fan Mr Cole is reported to have been the youngest chief constable in the UK on taking the job – and was the longest-serving by the time he left. He was hugely respected and widely admired, with tributes flooding into Leicestershire Live from community groups across the city and county.
READMORE: Tributes paid to lost loved ones in Leicestershire
The football match is being staged by the West Midlands force, where Mr Cole began his career as a recent graduate 33 years ago, where he rose through the ranks to become an inspector. He left to pursue his police career with Hampshire Constabulary before returning to his native Leicestershire.
His many honors include the Queen’s Police Medal (QPM), which is awarded for gallantry and long service, in 2014. The Simon Cole QPM Memorial Cup game will be held at the Tally Ho sports ground, in Pershore Road, Edgbaston, kicking off at 5 pm.
The event has been organized by DC Dan Hitchmough, a member of the Guardian Task Force tackling knife crime and player-coach of the West Midlands Police football team. He described the headaches and travails of organizing the event as being “a privilege” for such a well-liked man.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to actually meet Mr Cole as he’d left the force by the time I joined,” he said. “But I was aware of him, mostly through his work with Police Sport UK. I know he was a big rugby and Leicester Tigers fan and I’d often see him pictured on the website presenting some trophy.
“When I heard he’d died I was shocked and extremely saddened. I knew he was a very popular figure but didn’t realize how much until I started organizing the football match, alongside PC Jay Thomas of Leicestershire Police – everyone has been coming up to telling me what a great bloke he was, or what a great boss and colleague he was.
“When word got out I was organizing a football match I was struggling at first to find enough players. But as soon as they realized who it was for people have been knocking down my door trying to get involved.
“I now realize just how much Mr Cole meant to so many people. And that was from those who knew him quite a few years ago. It just goes to show you the measure of the man. The impression he made.”
The football match will feature a police brass band and guard of honor, and will include a fly-by by the police helicopter. Tickets cost £5, which will include entry into a raffle. Donations will also be gratefully received, with all proceeds going to UK Cops (Care Of Police Survivors), a charity supporting families of police officers who have lost their lives on duty.
Dc Hitchmough said: “It’s been hard work organizing all the posters, tickets, flyers, bands, teams – but it has been an absolute privilege too. People have been constantly getting in touch and we’ve got supporters coming from Leicestershire, Hampshire – all over the country.
“Mr Cole’s family and friends will also be joining us on Sunday. I’m sure the game’s going to be played in a fantastic spirit befitting of the occasion.
“lthough in one sense it will be sombre, I’m really looking forward to putting on a good show. It’s something we can all be part of, in Mr Cole’s honor – and for his family. And anyone who would like to come along and join us on the day is most welcome.”
An inquest opened at Leicester Coroner’s Court earlier this month into Mr Cole’s death. His cause of death of him, however, was not given during the short hearing, with the inquest adjourned to a date yet to be fixed.