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Honour real rescue heroes, says mum

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THE mother of a toddler whose life was saved by neighbours has called for their actions to be recognised with an award. Anne Benson's calls come after Sgt Derek Messenger handed back a commendation given to him by the police for his part in rescuing her son Jack Bailey.

In an interview with the Dover Mercury newspaper in November 2000, a couple of weeks after the incident, Ms Benson told how Jack, who was two at the time, had fallen into the River Dour, which runs past their home in Lower Street, River.

She said how she was indebted to neighbour Martin Godden and Mandy Rostron, from Eythorne, who had saved her son's life. There was no mention of Sgt Messenger and when he was given his award in February 2001, the Dover Mercury questioned his part in the drama.

It wasn't until Mrs Rostron complained that the police launched an investigation which resulted in Sgt Messenger handing back his award. "I don't think people expect something like that from a policeman," said Ms Benson. "I am just so grateful to Mandy and Martin. Without them Jack wouldn't be here."

The Dover Mercury's report after the accident contained interviews with both the rescuers. Little Jack had been feeding ducks at the bottom of his garden with his mother and cousin when he fell in. He was carried away by the strong current and the icy water shut his body down.

Mr Godden risked his life and jumped into the river, despite not being able to swim, and Mrs Rostron gave the child mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

The ambulance crew fought all the way to Canterbury to keep him alive and he was transferred to Guy's paediatric intensive care unit. There were about 50 people at the scene and Sgt Messenger was one of them, but Ms Benson was in such a state of shock she doesn't remember him until he called with a colleague a week after the event.

"It is such a shame that something bad has come out of something so good," said Ms Benson. "I would have loved Martin and Mandy to be honoured but I do not know how we go about doing it."

A police spokesman said: "The awarded commendation was subject to a complaint by a member of the public. This complaint was formally resolved during which Sgt Messenger chose to hand back the commendation."

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