AN INNERLEITHEN toddler will today become the youngest winner in Lothian and Borders Police’s last ever round of meritorious awards, writes Kenny Paterson.
Rowan Rychel was just two when she dialled 999 after her mother was knocked out at their Ballantyne Street home.
And the youngster, now aged three, will be honoured at Lothian and Borders Police headquarters in Edinburgh today, the force’s last meritorious ceremony ahead of the introduction of the single police force on April 1.
Back in September 2011, Rowan picked up the phone after mum Francesca fainted in their living room and knocked her head against a wooden cabinet.
Mrs Rychel told TheSouthern at the time: “The last I remembered was about 2pm and then I was woken up by a policeman. I don’t remember anything in between.
“The police officer told me that Rowan had phoned 999 and told the operator ‘Mummy won’t wake up’ and had then hung up.
“The operator phoned back and asked if they could speak to mummy and Rowan said ‘No’.
“They sent a policeman round who tried the door but apparently couldn’t get any answer.
“He saw Rowan running around in only her nappy and managed to get in and found me on the floor, with Rowan sitting on my chest.”
Mrs Rychel was taken to hospital having also suffered a dislocated knee in the incident, but said it could have been a lot worse without her daughter’s phonecall.
She told us: “I am very proud of her. I am glad it was not anything more serious.
“If it had been more serious I would have had to have taken a year out of my (university nursing) course.
“She has phoned 999 a few times – probably because it is the easiest number to reach for her.
“I have told her to only press 999 in an emergency so whether she remembered that or just thought she would get a response, I don’t know.”
Husband and dad Robert, who was working in Edinburgh at the time, added: “Francesca could have been lying there until I returned from work at 7pm if Rowan had not made the phonecall.”
Police Inspector Mike Wynne described quick thinking Rowan’s actions as “remarkable” at the time and promised to nominate the “wonderfully bright” toddler for an award.
Also to pick up an award today is Charlene McCulloch, Clare Waller, Norman Richardson and PC Brian Smith who helped rescue Katie-Lou MacLean, after she had leaped into the sea at Eyemouth Harbour to save friend Tempany Sylvester in June 2012.
Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police, David Strang, said: “As police officers we come across crises and emergency situations in our day-to-day business, but these awards recognise the times when officers and members of the public have shown exceptional courage beyond the call of duty.
“The criteria for winners is clear – they have been in a situation where they have taken a decision to act for the benefit of others, often risking their own lives in the process, and it is this public spirit that we are pleased to recognise in each one.
“Although this is the last Lothian and Borders Police Meritorious Awards, I would like to reassure the public that the new service will continue to celebrate the courage and bravery of our officers, and the communities we serve.”