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Former Diss police officer who put ‘town to bed’ fondly remembered

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Tributes from friends and family have poured in for a highly regarded former Diss police inspector, who “led from the front” during his working life.

Horace Bunton, of Sunnyside, died on February 24 following a short illness. He was 80.

He was heavily involved in the town, helping with the annual carnival and was well known in sporting circles.

Horace Bunton was an inspector in Diss during the early 1990s.
Horace Bunton was an inspector in Diss during the early 1990s.

Paying tribute to her father, Allison Clark described him as a “fantastic dad”.

She said: “He just enjoyed being with people and making them smile.

“Even though his job was behind a desk, when he became inspector, he always wanted to be on the beat in Diss to see people.

“Every Friday or Saturday night, he would be seen on the streets; he called it ‘putting the town to bed’.”

Born in Bircham in Norfolk, Mr Bunton did farm work when he left school, before beginning his police training in Oxford in 1966.

Moving to Diss the same year, he played football for the town and, in 1972, he was promoted to sergeant and moved to Thetford, where he played for the town’s rugby team.

He returned to Diss as inspector in 1989 and stayed in the post until he retired in 1996.

Horace Bunton was hugely respected by those that knew him.
Horace Bunton was hugely respected by those that knew him.

Former police constable Mike Cox joined Diss Police Station in 1970, moving with Mr Bunton to Thetford and then back with him to Diss until his retirement.

He said he could “fill a page” about his former colleague.

“He was well respected, and would always make sure his staff were safe, especially on a Friday and Saturday night, even if it meant coming in at the end of a shift,” he said.

“He always led from the front and was a big influence in my life.

“Horace would never ask his colleagues to do something that he would not do.

“He organised many things in Thetford for the youth of the town and, never seeking reward.”

As well as a passion for his job and love for his wife, Diana, who he married in 1962, Mr Bunton loved sport.

During his school years, he was part of an athletics squad that was chosen to take part in the All England Championship in Plymouth in 1954.

On top of football, rugby and volleyball, he also played bowls.

Kevin Baker, secretary of Diss and District Bowls Club, said: “He was a member of the club for more than 20 years and played in a number of the indoor teams, probably playing two or three games a week.

“He captained and played regularly in our outdoor teams and also served on the committee. He was well liked by members and always had a smile – we will miss him greatly.”

His love of the game did not finish at the club, as he would invite friends to his home on a Friday, when they would use his lawn to play bowls. In the winter, they would switch to playing snooker in one of his outbuildings.

Mrs Clark said: “My dad loved having friends over to play and mess around.

“With snooker, they would have a rule that if you potted the white, you had to sit with the triangle on your head. He loved playing with them.”

Mr Bunton was also a keen vegetable gardener and, alongside his wife, would regularly enter shows with Diss Horticultural Society and sell flowers at their garden gate to raise funds for the town’s St Mary’s Church.

Greta Sturgeon, chairman of Diss Horticultural Society, said: “He was the life and soul of the party. He was society secretary for many years, as well as being on the committee.

“He always helped new exhibitors – that is something some would not do but he was always willing to do that. He was a wonderful chap, a true gentleman in a very quiet way.

“In winter months, he would also come up to the Salvation Army and play carpet bowls with us. When he was a police officer in Diss, he was on the scout district committee.”

Diss Carnival was also something Mr Bunton was involved in, organising the marshals for the highly popular event.

At one time, he was a committee member at Diss Museum, where he worked alongside Basil Abbott, who said: “For several years, Horace and I were both on the carnival committee.

“At one point, we were the only ones left after a spate of resignations.

“He was a decent, fair-minded, local copper, who knew and was known by everyone.”

When Mr Bunton was taken ill, his family said they were staggered by the love from the community for him and the number of people who checked in on him.

His daughter said: “We kept a book of people who came to see dad and contacted us with messages.

“But we stopped doing it after the fifth page as he just had so many, but we made sure every message got to him and we have been overwhelmed by his friends.

“So many of them respected him and he had the chance to hear that from so many, which was something special as most do not get that chance.

“We would like to thank everyone who took the time to contact us.”

Mr Bunton leaves behind his wife, Diana, and his three children, Allison, Gary and Graham.

His funeral service will take place in St Mary’s Church on March 23.

Donations are being sought for Prostate Cancer UK and can be given to Rosedales Funeral Home in Victoria Road, Diss.

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