A police officer who was shot as he tried to protect the public while off duty has been posthumously awarded the George Medal for gallantry.

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Pc Ian Dibell was killed while trying to stop gunman Peter Reeve, who had fired at a couple near his home in Clacton, in July last year. Reeve was found dead in a churchyard the next day after taking his own life.

Pc Dibell has now become the first police officer in the country to receive the award in more than 20 years, Essex Police confirmed.

Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said: “Essex Police could not be more proud to learn that Pc Ian Dibell has been awarded the George Medal.

“This award ranks Pc Dibell, quite rightly, as one of the bravest people in the country. He has been recognised posthumously for his immense courage and sacrifice. He selflessly and knowingly put his own life at risk to protect the innocent people of Clacton.

“Pc Dibell paid the ultimate price for his actions, but he will never be forgotten by his colleagues in Essex Police, or the people of this county.

“I am sure that this award will be cherished by Ian’s family, friends and colleagues who still so keenly feel his loss.”

The George Medal is granted in recognition of acts of great bravery and is primarily a civilian honour - just over 2,100 medals have been awarded since its inception in 1940.

It is the latest in a string of awards given to Pc Dibell after his death.

In October he was voted the most courageous officer at the annual Police Bravery Awards and he also received a High Commendation from his force.