For more two decades Bob Bridgestock played a role in investigating some of the most shocking and serious crimes in West Yorkshire.
A career detective, he was a regular fixture at press conferences seeking information on the most violent crimes.
During his service he led on the likes of the Birkby fire in which eight people died, and was part of the Ripper investigation.
In his final three years with the force he investigated 26 murders and, in his final week of service he gave evidence at Leeds Crown Court in three different murder trials, all on the same day.
“It was fast and furious,” he said
“I have been hospitalised, on one occasion I needed eight stitches in my face. I have been hit by all sorts of people. But I consider myself as a survivor and I have always worked for the families.”
Inevitably the constant workload of tragedies and losses took its toll on him.
He tells of how on many occasions he would use press conferences to send a subtle message to his daughters – his only means of doing so given his workload kept him away from them for sustained periods.
At the start of each televised address, Bob would straighten his tie, a visual message to his family to let them know they were in his thoughts.
“That was just a little signal to the girls to say ‘love you lots, miss you and dad is OK’,” he said.
By the time he drew near to retirement Bob was investigating at times as many as five murders at once.
One day he got to what he calls “absolute saturation point” and found when he tried to get out of his car one day he could not move.
A trip to the doctor saw him be asked to detail what he had done over the past seven days. When he got to the end of the second day, the doctor stopped him.
“He said ‘You are on the verge of a major breakdown, when can you retire?’. It was then I decided to go.”
He and his wife Carol decided to make a clean break from the area.
Carol had also worked for the West Yorkshire force in a variety of roles, something that would serve them both in good stead for the next chapter of their lives.
“The partner is the strength behind that person because they are the ones that sleep alone and don’t know what is happening when they go out on a job,” she said.
“We could never get away from it so we decided to cut the cord totally.”
The couple moved to the Isle of Wight, wanting a home as far away from their old lives as possible. “We needed to escape,” said Bob.
“We could not walk around locally in Huddersfield or Halifax without someone coming up to us and saying ‘Bob, have you locked him up yet?’.”
Carol adds: “We didn’t talk about the police, the people down there didn’t know anything about us.”
The couple’s attempts to keep their high-profile policing past secret was shortlived and soon people began to ask about it.
However, rather than dragging them back into the horrors of the investigations Bob undertook, it instead led to a cathartic and fruitful second career.
Carol said: “We still thought about ways we could help people.
“I was volunteering at a hospice and somehow they found out about Bob’s past. At some point they asked him to do a talk.”
Bob was initially reluctant but eventually agreed. The response he got was overwhelming.
“They wouldn’t let him go,” Carol said. “They laughed, they cried and we were there for four hours. At the end people came up and said you should write a book.”
Carol had been encouraging Bob for some time to write down his life’s story but he couldn’t face writing about himself.
An advert in the local paper for a writing course at a college caught their eye and, one rainy day, the couple went ahead and booked it.
Bob said: “Writing a book was never a consideration. I am a lad from Barnsley and I left school at 15. In the class I thought I had gone into a foreign language course with people going on about antagonists etc. But I was always brought up to believe that if you start something you finish it.” The couple’s main objective was to have something they could print themselves to give to their grandchildren.
Eventually the writing transitioned from non fiction to fiction. Working together under the R.C. Bridgestock byline, the character of Jack Dylan was born. Although fictional, Dylan is very loosely based on Bob and his partner Jane on Carol.
“I started to open up the characters and add characters of people we knew,” said Bob
“If you look back at the press conferences I did it was always very much the hard-nosed detective. That goes with the territory. But when you put the policeman bit aside, you are a dad, a husband, the kids go to school – how do you really feel?”
The first book the pair wrote Deadly Focus was initially self published. They distributed the copies around local hospices and eventually readers began asking for another instalment. They were taken on by a publisher and they got an agent. Eventually they would devise another character, Charley Mann, and publish further books.
The novels led them to be called upon to consult for television crime series, including Happy Valley, and they built up a cult following.
Via a mutual friend they connected with Leeds-based production company Hell Fire! which is now developing the books into a high-end TV drama with the working title Mann, in addition to new TV drama and documentary concepts based on Bob’s prolific career as a detective with their TV consultancy Walking the Line.
Andy Dorée, co-founder of Hell Fire!, said: “With something like this these stories need to be told by people from the area to give that authenticity. These characters are based on real people.”
He cites Ozark, the US crime series set in a backwater town in Missouri, as a template of sorts as a series based somewhere unconventional.
“Crime sells anywhere,” said Andy.
“But what we want to get away from is that we are sick of seeing southern production companies portraying the north like it is a third world country in the middle of a war zone. We want to change opinions when it comes to northern stories.”
The journey has been a cathartic but exciting one for Bob and Carol who have found the peace they sought whilst also bringing excitement and drama to people’s lives, based on their own experiences.
“Writing a book is hard but to become crime authors it was like jumping into a lake and not being able to swim,” Bob concludes.
“We had to find our way through this dark maze. And we did.”
* Support your Halifax Courier by becoming a digital subscriber. You will see 70 per cent fewer ads on stories, meaning faster load times and an overall enhanced user experience. Click here to subscribe