What’s the Story?
Keeping rural areas safe isn’t the sole preserve of the police. A band of unofficial sheriffs of the countryside have a long tradition of maintaining order on the ground - the gamekeepers. Richard Downs combines those two roles; he’s a gamekeeper by trade and a Rural Special Constable out-of-hours. And he uses Land Rovers to fulfil both duties.
He drives his own 1985 200Tdi-converted Ninety as a gamekeeper and, when he puts his police cap on, has exclusive access to the only Defender in Hertfordshire Constabulary’s fleet, a 2002 Td5 90 station wagon.
Richard’s boss wanted him to patrol his patch in a vehicle that the farming and rural community could relate to. So the force bought the 90 from its colleagues in Thames Valley Police.
There is another Land Rover connection - he looks after the estate of Bill Wigget, the former sales director at Lairds in Anglesey, who came up with the concept of the Centaur half-track Scorpion/Land Rover hybrid in the late 1970s.
Our Favourite Bit?
This police Defender is a much-talked about and photographed vehicle. It has featured on BBC’s Countryfile and regularly appears in rural policing recruitment posters. Richard says: ‘As a Land Rover enthusiast, you can imagine my big, cheesy grin when my inspector phoned to say he’d got hold of a Defender from Thames Valley Police.’
And the Verdict from LRO writer Russ Brown?
At 13 years old the 90 is ancient by police standards, but for Richard it is the ultimate vehicle to do the job and with just 87,700 miles on the clock has loads of life in it yet.
Model Defender 90 station wagon Year 2002 Mileage 87,000 Engine Td5 Power 122bhp at 4000rpm Torque 221lb ft at 1950rpm Transmission Permanent four-wheel drive, LT77 five-speed manual gearbox, two-speed LT230 transfer box Tyres 235/85 R16 Cooper Discoverer AT Special kit carried Diesel dipping kit; horse head collars (two sizes); personal night vision equipment (Richard’s own) Vehicle mods Run Lock [engine can be left running securely, powering lights without flattening battery]
The full story can be found in the November 2015 issue of LRO. Download a digital issue, or order a back issue by calling 01858 438884.