A ‘friendly and kind’ man who spent much of his life serving the town as a police officer has died at the age of 82.
Derek Wilkinson was born in 1931 in Herstmonceux and lived in the area all his life. He trained as a glass cutter locally but then joined the RAF and was worked as a radar operator in various bases across the UK between 1949 and 1954.
In 1954 he joined the Eastbourne Borough Police, before it merged to become Sussex Police, where he had a long and successful career.
During his police years he worked his way up the ranks to become detective sergeant and took part in a number of large cases including an Eastbourne train crash in 1958 and the enquiry in to the IRA bombing at Brighton’s Grand Hotel shortly before he retired from the force in 1985.
Derek was also a special branch officer at Newhaven port in the late 1960s through to 1976. His only child Nick Wilkinson said it was during this time he developed a fascination with the disappearance of Lord Lucan and was interviewed by the BBC’s Inside Out programme on the case.
Nick said, “There was a conspiracy theory that, after killing his wife and nanny, Lord Lucan escaped across to the continent via Newhaven. At the time my father was working nights and he was very fussy about detail.
“It was all over the front page of the Mail that Lucan had escaped but dad was adamant that he was not on that ferry.”
After his time in the police force, Derek worked as a rent recovery officer for Wealden until 1995 when he retired.
However, son Nick, who followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the police force at 19 before becoming Assistant Chief Constable for Eastbourne, says his father’s retirement was anything but quiet.
Arsenal fan Derek supported football and cricket clubs locally, was secretary of the local table tennis league for several years, an active player in the Eastbourne Snooker League and a lawns bowls player in clubs across the town.
He was also heavily involved in the Eastbourne Constitutional Club and was chairman for many years.
Derek married Joy Carr, a professional singer, in Eastbourne in 1958 and the couple were living together in a Bexhill nursing home when Derek died peacefully in his sleep on Monday (April 22) after suffering with Parkinson’s Disease. Derek and Joy are proud grandparents to Emma, Chris, Andy and Teia. He is also survived by his two sisters Jean and Pat.
Son Nick said, “He was the perfect role model for a dad. He was competitive, friendly, kind and someone I could only ever hope to be.”
The funeral is at Eastbourne Crematorium at 10.45am on May 10. Details from Towner Funeral Directors in Bexhill on 01424 436386.