THE gunning-down of two Greater Manchester police officers going about their routine business stopped me in my tracks.
Such acts of brutality are shocking enough when you read about them happening in America. Even such an outrage in London would offer some distance buffer.
But this happened in Mottram, not 20 miles from Wigan.
One imagines PCs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone proudly or unconsciously donning their uniforms on Tuesday morning, ready for another day in what is widely regarded as one of the most stressful jobs in British society, and yet never thinking that it was their final day on earth.
The worst of it is the seemingly calculating way in which these innocents were lured to their deaths. They had gone unarmed to a house which the police computer linked with no ne’er-do-wells thinking they were investigating the aftermath of a burglary only to be attacked with a firearm and grenade.
The deaths of serving police officers are, thankfully, a rarity in this country. But then when one, let alone two at once, occur it is all the more disturbing.
Less of a rarity is the number of bobbies injured during the course of their work. This terrible day for Greater Manchester Police is a timely reminder of the dangers they encounter protecting the rest of us.
And it has inevitably provoked a new debate about whether officers should be routinely armed on duty and also whether cop-killers should be handed a death sentence.
As far as I am concerned though, this is such a freakish occurrence in the history of British justice that it should have little bearing on common practices.
Norman Tebbit’s idea of bringing back the rope only for the murderers of police officers still strikes me as discriminatory. All life is equally precious when it comes to crime victims.
And having every officer toting a gun only ups the ante for crooks to do the same. Firearms and greater body armour would probably not have saved the ambushed Manchester policewomen either.