FAREWELL to the Cambridgeshire Police helicopter after 15 years of effective crime-fighting and life-saving service.

Farewell to 15 years of accrued local intelligence, the intimate knowledge of every lane, hidey-hole, likely lad and dodgy premise in our rural county.

For the next six months requests for air cover must be made to distant Essex and Suffolk units. Response times will be much slower, assuming an aircraft is available in the first place. Who will decide priorities when there are conflicting mission requests?

The formation of the new National Police Air Service (NPAS) has been dogged by argument, infighting and confusion. One senior Cambs police officer described it as 'a jar of worms' with command and control issues still unresolved. The current 32 police aircraft will be cut to 20 in November, and Cambridgeshire will be served by aircraft from Oxfordshire, Northants, Essex and possibly Suffolk in a move to a 'borderless air service'. This inferior cover, it is claimed, will save Cambridgeshire Police £500,000 per annum, a relatively meagre amount in the scale of things.

Our much-loved, life saving Magpas (now renamed Helimedix) team is left casting around for another helicopter now that they have lost the use of the Cambs Police aircraft and crew. They are faced with the daunting task of raising around £100,000 per annum to charter a helicopter and crew.

So let's hope Chief Constable Parr and his senior officers can sleep soundly at night in the light of their decision. Their slumber will not be disturbed by the reassuring sound of our own helicopter going about its patrol. The criminal fraternity must be laughing all the way to (or perhaps from) the bank.

PAUL DAVIES

Woodlands

St Neots