A sleeping (in his van) policeman

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A WISBECH police officer has hit the headlines after it came to light he has been sleeping in a VW van because he can’t afford the petrol to commute to work.

PC Mark Gatward lives in the town but is a police officer in Harlow, Essex - which is a round trip of 166 miles.

The dedicated officer’s story was revealed in The Sun newspaper where a ‘friend’ tells how the 33-year-old has been sleeping in a van in lay-bys and truck parks for the past five years.

He reportedly washes in service stations and public toilets and sometimes has a shower at a local leisure centre before starting work.

PC Gatward has also reportedly asked repeatedly for a transfer to Wisbech but so far he has had no luck.

The friend is quoted as saying: “Mark is a great, dedicated man. He doesn’t cause a stink and just thinks he’s lucky to hold down a job.

“He realises he may raise eyebrows but it is only to support his wife and kids. He can work long hours for four or five days, so drives down and sleeps in his van wherever he can.”

Essex Police Federation has spoken in support of Mr Gatward.

Secretary Roy Scanes said: “It’s an unfortunate situation. This officer is a good performing officer.”

He said Mr Gatward had been distressed by the publicity.

Essex police have refuted the claim that Mr Gatward had been refused a transfer saying:

“The force has offered the officer the opportunity to be redeployed elsewhere in the county in order to be nearer to his family but he has rejected these offers due to personal reasons.”

He is due to move to a post at Great Dunmow in March which is about 80 miles from Wisbech.