A self-confessed “thorn in the side of the hierarchy” has found a happy home in the Museum of Policing in Cheshire.

Deputy manager of the Warrington venue Len Cotterell has had an interesting life…with a few scrapes along the way.

And now he is about to embark on one of his greatest adventures, when he marries the lovely Sue next month…after an engagement of 19 years. Len faces important decisions such as which tie to wear and what colour handkerchief to arrange in his suit jacket!

Len is a popular character at the museum, entertaining visitors with police history and tales of his career.

He is particularly interested in welcoming disadvantaged and disabled people to the museum, after checking the tour will be suitable for them.

Len was born in Croydon, London, in 1957, and was a single child. Because he was born on July 17, he went in the academic year above many of his friends, and struggled to keep up with older classmates.

He didn’t enjoy school, and was bullied because he was younger and quite shy. He left school with one O’ Level in Art! 

Sadly, Len’s mum died when he was 20 of rheumatoid arthritis and stroke. Six years later his dad passed away.

“It was a sad time,” said Len. “But fortunately, the mum of my best friend sort of adopted me and was there to support me.”

Len worked in vehicle maintenance and car respraying. Then because he was good at figures, he went into accountancy and worked at Barclays Bank as a teller. He left after the bank turned down his request to do day release.

In his youth Len had worked as part time commis waiter in the grand setting of London hotels The Savoy and Royal Gardens. Earlier he had a successful Saturday job at Tesco’s, where he became the only Saturday staff to be in charge of his own section – household goods.

Len wanted to be a police officer, but four endorsements on his driving licence, meant he had to wait four years for them to expire. After a pub visit when he was 15, during the Power Cuts, he drove a Puch Moped straight into the back of a furniture van and knocked himself out. With no insurance or licence, he got two endorsements. He drove a BSA Bantam 175 with a passenger on the back. He saw a police officer, who he mistakenly thought was going to stop him so confessed two offences. Two more endorsements for no insurance and no licence followed.

Further trouble followed Len when he was working as a traffic warden in Croydon. Outside an electrical store a man asked Len to help him load a washing machine into his van. Len wasn’t allowed to, so the man punched him. Turns out the man was actually stealing the machine.

In 1977 Len eventually joined the police with the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority in London. He worked hard and passed his Sergeants Exams in 1980 and Inspectors Exams the following year.

 He received a London Chief Constable’s Commendation after arresting someone for robbery at Victoria Station.  The male, an illegal alien with drugs offences, was subsequently deported.

In 1986 he moved to Risley, Warrington. He received a Chief Constable’s Commendation when he arrested someone for attempted murder. The male had smashed a glass and pushed it into someone’s neck. The victim wasn’t expected to live, but pulled through.

Len then moved to Harwell in Oxford, where after three years he was promoted to Inspector.

“After passing the Inspector’s Exams it took me 22 years to get the promotion. I failed the Promotion Board every year!” Len admitted.

More high-profile roles followed, he moved to Sellafield as a Police Search Advisor, worked in Counter Terrorism checking the premises for VIP and Royal Visits, and was also a Firearms Officer for 15 years.

After a short time at Egremont, Len went to St Bee’s training search officers in a CNC national search role.

He said: “I was like a travelling salesman visiting sites from Scotland to Dungeness. I covered the whole of the country for three years as part of a national Tactical Response Group.

“I was first line manager to 22 Sergeants and second line manager to 150 bobbies, throughout the country – so it was a very busy job.”

Len went on to a role at CNC HQ in Culham, Oxfordshire, Counter Terrorism at GMP and Inspector at Capenhurst with URENCO, before retiring in 2014 and joining the museum the following year.

“I had a great career and enjoyed a variety of roles meeting fascinating people. It’s great to share my love of policing and police history with our visitors,” said Len.