Obituary: John Denholm, 72

John Denholm made his first arrest before he was an officer

John Denholm made his first arrest before he was an officer

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A police officer who rose to the rank of assistant chief constable and masterminded security for royal visits, a Papal tour and Edinburgh’s 1986 Commonwealth Games has died, aged 72.

John Denholm made his first arrest before he became involved in the force – tackling a shoplifter at an electrical store where he worked.

Mr Denholm joined the then Lothian & Peebles Police and went on to enjoy a 30-year career in which he rose through the ranks and worked on some of Scotland’s most high-profile events and cases.

Born next to the home of Scottish Protestant reformer John Knox in High Street, Mr Denholm was the eldest of seven children and spent his early years at the home of his grandfather, with whom he became very close.

His first posting with the force was to South Queensferry and it was while on duty that he met police station receptionist Jean Middlemass, whom he later married in Dalmeny Kirk in 1963.

Police promotions resulted in several moves for the couple, as Mr Denholm went from Queens­ferry to Addiewell Station and then Bathgate, where he joined the traffic division and became a police motorcyclist and advanced driving instructor.

A stint in Livingston was followed by a return to Edinburgh, to the new Lothian & Borders force HQ, where he became an inspector in road safety before moving to personnel and training.

Promotion to chief superintendent and area commander for the city’s West End followed. During his career he was also responsible for planning the police response to a wide range of major events including royal visits, the Pope’s visit in 1982, the miners’ strike of 1984 and the 1986 Commonwealth Games.

In December 1988, he shared the country’s agony and the burden of policing the aftermath of Scotland’s worst terrorist atrocity, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie. He was seconded as a senior officer to assist Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary in dealing with the disaster that killed all 270 people.

Subsequently promoted to Assistant Chief Constable of ­Lothian & Borders, he was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal and then in 1992 received a call from Kenneth Clarke to take up a post in London as senior police adviser in information technology to the Home Office.

It was while working in London that he chalked up his 30 years in the police service and, although he had the chance of moving to Aberdeen as chief constable of Grampian Police, he and Jean instead both opted to retire at 50.

In between, he and his wife and their two sons, Alan and Keith, lived at South Queensferry where he loved to sail. When his grandson, Fraser, came along, John’s life turned full circle and he found himself sharing the same close friendship he had relished with his own grandfather.

He is survived by his wife, sons and grandson.