Honours and Awards

by Viv Head

– Part Two

The Queens Gallantry Medal

The Queens Gallantry Medal (QGM) was instituted on the 20th June 1974 primarily as a civilian award for ‘exemplary acts of bravery’. It has been awarded three times to members of the force. Police Constables Terry Bebbington and Steve Hanson received their awards for their courageous actions in the Kings Cross fire in 1989 when thirty-one people lost their lives. The third occasion saw the medal awarded to Inspector Michael ‘Dan’ Tanner for his actions when confronted by an extremely disturbed and violent man armed with a large bladed knife.

In December 2001 Inspector Tanner arrived at Finsbury Park police station in London in a marked police car. As he got out of his vehicle to operate the door security keypad, he was approached by a male, later identified as Ronald McKoy who had a pathological hatred of the police and had a history of mental illness and violence. He had recently absconded from a secure mental unit and had previously attacked an officer with a machete. When officers had forced an entry into his last known address the previous day they were dressed in full riot gear.

McKoy had been wandering the streets without medication and was a ticking bomb. Inspector Tanner was simply the first uniformed police officer he came upon. He went to the police vehicle and urinated on it. As the officer began to remonstrate with him, McKoy coldly told him – ‘I am going to kill you’.

The Inspector moved away slightly and saw McKoy searching his pockets, then, smiling, he drew a large commando knife. The officer realised he was searching for a weapon and was initially relieved to see it was a knife rather than a gun. He drew his extendable baton as McKoy charged and recalls being surprised at how quickly McKoy, who was 6ft 4in and 16 stone, could move for such a big man. McKoy clattered into the officer which caused his police utility belt to fall off-putting his handcuffs and radio beyond reach. To the shock of onlookers, many of whom ran away screaming, McKoy began trying to stab the officer who was trying to defend himself with the baton. It was quite exhausting but he was able to strike McKoy several times and felt he was getting the upper hand when the inevitable happened. McKoy managed to stab the officer in the chest causing a two-and-a-half inch deep wound. The inspector realised it was a bad wound and his shirt Inspector Tanner quickly became soaked in blood. He knew he was in trouble and could not continue trying to defend himself; he turned to run as quickly as he could. But McKoy chased after him, caught him up and plunged the knife into his right arm. The officer freed himself and sprinted to the only cover he could see, a nearby bus. Fortunately, the bus was empty and the Inspector hoped the driver would quickly shut the doors and drive off. But the driver was in shock after witnessing events and there was an agonizing delay before he regained his composure to shut the doors just as McKoy was about to board. McKoy made several frenzied attempts to force open the doors even pushing the knife through trying to cut through the rubber of the doors.

The driver stalled the engine several times before the bus eventually pull away. McKoy chased the bus for a short distance before turning his attention to passers-by. He grabbed a 14 year old girl and held the knife to her throat. Inspector Tanner saw what was happening through the window and with no other police having yet arrived, he felt compelled to act. He leapt from the bus and shouted at McKoy. This had the immediate desired effect as McKoy released the girl and chased after the officer. There then commenced a deadly game of cat and mouse. Knowing that help was on its way, the inspector was playing for time; as soon as McKoy stopped chasing him, he would turn back towards him, causing him to chase after him again. He was just able to keep the gap between them but was gasping for breath and weak from the loss of blood.

Help soon arrived and officers with riot shields subdued Mckoy though not before he stabbed two Metropolitan Police officers, one in the leg and the other in the stomach. Dan Tanner spent three days in hospital and nine months off work. In 2002 at the Old Bailey, McKoy was sentenced to life imprisonment. Judge Gerald Gordon said: ‘Inspector Tanner acted with a bravery going well beyond the call of duty. Having been stabbed twice with a vicious-looking knife, he deliberately put himself back in danger. I rarely commend officers and do so only in exceptional circumstances – these are exceptional circumstances.’ Inspector Dan Tanner was invested with the Queen’s Gallantry Medal by Her Majesty the Queen in 2005. He is still a serving officer with the British Transport Police and works on London Underground.


This article originally appeared in the BTPHG Year Book 2013.

(See Part One)