Ex-PNE player and top cop dies

Tributes: Ken O'Brien
Tributes: Ken O'Brien
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A well-known former Lancashire Police Detective Chief Inspector and PNE player has died.

The former hostage negotiator and footballer Kenneth John O’Brien died earlier this month at the age of 73 after an 18-month illness.

Born in Liverpool in 1940, in the midst of the Second World War, Ken was evacuated to Preston with his mother while his father acted as a serving soldier.

When the war ended Ken’s father spent time at Fulwood Barracks and the family decided to make their home in Preston.

Originally living in a two-up-two-down house in Duke Street, Preston, Ken attended St Saviour’s CE Primary School before moving on to Frenchwood Secondary Modern in Preston.

On leaving school at the age of 15, Ken joined Preston North End FC as an amateur player. He captained the youth team.

At the same time, he also secured an apprenticeship at English Electric, which later became BAE, as a jig and tool maker.

But, at the age of 17, Ken was offered professional terms with Preston North End.

Not wanting to relinquish his job, however, Ken kept on with his apprenticeship and was allowed to have a part-time contract at the club.

His wife Gillian recalled how Ken received a £20 signing on fee, which felt like a small fortune to him at the time.

When his father died he gave his earnings to his mother, who in return, gave him £5 which he used to buy a new pair of leather shoes and a bunch of grapes.

“He used to be amazed and think it was obscene how much money footballers are now on,” said Gillian.

Ken later became a draughtsman for BAE before joining the police in 1963.

Ken, who had three children to his first wife who died, went on to remarry in 1979 after meeting Gillian.

The couple had a daughter, Victoria, who is now 22, in 1991 and two years later he retired from 
Lancashire Constabulary holding the rank of Detective Chief Inspector.

During his time at the police he was also a hostage negotiator and was head of the Regional Crime Squad as well as head of the Lancashire Drugs Squad.

In 1987, Ken and Gillian moved to Sawley from their home in Whittle-le-Woods.

His funeral was held at Skipton Crematorium earlier this month.