An elderly woman in palliative care who was the first female mounted police officer in the UK has had her final wish granted by the NSW Mounted Police.
Rita Meredith (nee Browning), originally from England made history in her early 20s. After serving in the police force for two years, Rita moved to the UK Mounted Police unit in the 1960s.
The 75-year-old who has been unwell for quite some time is seeing out her final days at Calvary Mater Hospital in Newcastle, NSW. Her dying wish was to be able 'to see or smell a horse one more time'.
One of Rita's close friends got in touch with the NSW Mounted Police in Sydney hoping to organise a visit.
Senior Constable Graham Lovett and Constable Nicole Harvell accompanied by their handsome sidekicks, Police Horse 'Don' and Police Horse 'Hollywood' made the two-hour, 163-kilometre trip to make sure Rita's dream became a reality.
Senior Constable Lovett who has been working at the NSW Police Force for over 12 years, came up with his horse Don.
"Our boss always tries to honour community engagement, where there is time for us to do it," he said.
"A request like this doesn't come along very often and when my sergeant told me that I was going up there for the day... It was an honour to do something like this for a lady." Senior Constable Lovett told Yahoo News Australia.
"On this occasion, we especially made time because she's an ex-Mounted Police Officer - she was that in the UK, the first female [Mounted] Police Officer over there."
NSW police horses looking their best for special visit
Before making the trip up north, the police officers 'did a bit of cleaning' to make sure both Don and Hollywood were neat, tidy, and ready to meet with Rita.
"It was a great honour to go up there and meet her."
"As soon as they said she was a Mounted Police Officer, I knew we had to have all our saddle gear, bridles and everything clean because I know that's probably one of the first things I'd look at," he said.
"I think it tells you a lot about the officer."
It wasn't a usual day at work for Senior Constable Lovett and his colleagues, but it was a memorable one.
"As soon as I saw her [Rita's] eyes light up I knew it was going to be a good afternoon."
"I could tell straight away that she'd been around horses because she just put her hand up and waited for the horse to come to her," he said.
"She had a nice way about her with horses, which was good to see."
Recalling meeting the Queen Mother
The Police Officers, Don and Hollywood spent an hour and a half with Rita swapping stories about the job.
"I asked her [Rita] what was one of her biggest memories of when she was in the UK Mounted Police unit and she said when she met the Queen Mother," Senior Constable Lovett said.
"She actually showed us a photo and a [news] clipping of that,"
"I actually have a photo on my phone that was taken when Prince Charles and Camilla came out to our unit — I think it was probably four or five years ago," he said.
"I had one [a photo] with Prince Charles so I could relate in that way with her [Rita] — my horse was sticking his tongue out at the time [the photo was taken] and she had a good laugh about it."
The NSW Mounted Police unit posted touching photos of the meet and greet on their official Facebook page. Since then, the post has received almost 10,000 positive reactions, over 2,000 heartwarming comments, and best wishes for Rita, her family, and friends.
Rita’s daughter-in-law Emily Sykes commented on the post to express her appreciation and gratitude to the NSW Mounted Police unit for the kind gesture.
"Thank you so much for what you did for Rita."
"The genuine respect you had for her was evident, and your kindness and professionalism were amazing," Mrs. Sykes wrote.
"Thank you again on behalf of Rita and her family and friends."
For Senior Constable Lovett, 'it was a privilege' to meet a pioneering mounted police officer, he says and easily 'one of the days he'll remember'.
"It is the first time, I have been asked to do a job like this."
"It was a really good hour-and-a-half," Senior Constable Lovett said.
"It's definitely one of those things I will always remember in relation to my policing career."
Sadly, two days after Rita's afternoon rendezvous with the team at NSW Mounted Police, she passed away peacefully on March 11, 2021, surrounded by her loved ones.
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