Coronavirus: Tributes paid to former officer as she dies of COVID-19

One of Britain’s first female detective inspectors, 81, who worked undercover as prostitute during 1970s Yorkshire Ripper probe dies from coronavirus in care home

  • Joan Tait, a former police inspector who once went undercover to investigate the infamous Yorkshire Ripper, has died due to coronavirus at the age of 81
  • The Yorkshire-born officer became one of the country’s first female inspectors 
  • She was residing at the Stanley Park Care Home in Durham before she died
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Tributes have been paid to a former top police officer who went undercover during the times of the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry after her coronavirus-related death in a care home.

Joan Tait, formerly Scriven, who died aged 81, carved out an impressive career in the police force and rose rapidly through the ranks to become one of the country’s first female police inspectors.

Sadly, Joan, who lived in Craghead, Durham, for two decades with her husband, John, died at the coronavirus-hit Stanley Park Care Home on April 16.

During her career as a police officer, she had spells in uniform and as a detective in vice, special crime, fraud, drugs squads, a murder investigation and undercover work, travelling to Holland in the search for missing paintings.

Former police inspector Joan Tait, who once went undercover as a prostitute to investigate the Yorkshire Ripper, has died of a COVID-19-related illness at a County Durham care home

It was while she was undercover as a prostitute during the times they were investigating the Yorkshire Ripper cases that she found herself arrested in a mix-up.

Her sister Barbara Taylor said: ‘She often worked undercover and often laughed at the time she was arrested whilst undercover as a prostitute following some serious attacks at the time.

‘This was the time of the famous ripper. The officers did not recognise her or believe her. This was quickly sorted but there were some very stern words.’

Joan started her career in 1961 after spotting a recruitment campaign for the police and successfully joined the West Sussex Police Force, reaching the rank of Sergeant before transferring to Derby County and Borough Constabulary as an Inspector in 1970.

Barbara, 67, said: ‘The road was, however, far from easy and Joan was stationed in Crawley in 1966 when she ended up looking after me at the age of 13 after both our parents died.

‘She was 28, pursuing a highly active career in the police force and studying for promotion, as well as raising a turbulent teenager – an amazing achievement.

‘Joan was 14 years older than me and brought me up from the age of 13, so was more a mum than a sister. Just imagine it! I often ask myself, what would have become of me without her?’

Just seven years later, at the age of 35, she received a top promotion.

Joan, who once took in three thugs single-handed, became the number two in the country’s CID Special Crime Squad with the rank of detective inspector in Derby police force.

Formerly known as Joan Scriven before getting married, she rose up the ranks in the force and enjoyed rich success, famously playing a key role in investigating Peter Sutcliffe (left) in 1970s

The force was one of the first to move towards integrated equal promotion for both sexes.

Barbara said: ‘She moved up to Chesterfield, Derbyshire in the summer of 1970. There she established herself as a very successful and highly regarded Woman Police Inspector, fondly known as ‘Scriv’ and always refusing to be addressed as ‘Ma’am’ by her team.’

She added: ‘She often joked that she was one of the original girl powers, and the family were incredibly proud of her for all that she achieved in her police days given it was a very male dominant environment then with a lot of prejudices.’

Away from her career, she was a lover of travelling with a trip in her early 20s seeing her land in the press after meeting a Moroccan chief who fell for her and pursued her and offered her marriage – which she refused.

After retiring from the force in the early 80s, Joan made a huge life change and bought a bar in Benidorm. The venture didn’t work out after a fraudulent solicitor in Spain hadn’t secured the correct licence, resulting in the bar closing down.

But, she did meet her future husband, John Tait, who was on holiday with his friends.

The couple married on November 20, 1982 and lived in Greater Manchester for just over 10 years, with ventures including running a grocery shop and making sandwiches for local factory workers.

They then moved back to John’s native north east and settled in Craghead, where John was sub-postmaster at Middles Post Office until retirement.

Her success in the force saw her gain lots of media attention and her ranks soon became senior

Barbara added: ‘Joan ran its shop, selling cards, knitting wool and patterns and taking in knitting orders. On retirement they converted the Post Office back into a private house and continued to live there until they both needed to move into full time care.

‘Throughout their marriage they travelled the world to numerous places like India, many American states, Canada, Niagara Falls, Italy and Norway.

‘It was a great passion until ill health prevented this, including Joan suffering strokes.’

The couple moved into Stanley Park Care Home, County Durham, in early 2018 and were inseparable until John sadly died on December 18 that year.

Sadly, Joan died after suffering coronavirus symptoms – at the care home devastated by 16 deaths to the virus.

Her stepdaughter Michelle Radford, 56, of Chester-le-Street, said: ‘Joan, and previously John too, were happy and very well looked after there.

‘Joan was known there for her love of an afternoon tipple of baileys and her devilment and wicked sense of humour.

‘She was a very strong and determined lady, was incredibly kind hearted and loyal.

‘And she had a great love of animals and was a regular benefactor to several animal sanctuaries.’

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