Obituary: Former policeman encountered Princess Diana and loose turkeys

A true Norfolk character: David Buchanan, a former police officer, has died aged 76

A true Norfolk character: David Buchanan, a former police officer, has died aged 76 - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Sometime before his death, David Buchanan sat down and wrote the announcement of his passing in less than 50 words. 

Considered something of an eccentric, and a man with a heart of gold, it is no surprise then that his death notice retained his personality. 

Within those words, Mr Buchanan, a former police sergeant, placed comprehensive instructions that there was to be “No flowers, no black, no ice-creams" before signing off that he would join mourners at the pub “in spirit – brandy and water, that is”. 

And while it might read as a slightly bizarre way to say goodbye, his daughter, Karen Buchanan, explained that these plans had been meticulously put in place for a number of years. 

Ms Buchanan said: “I don’t even know why he said ‘no ice creams' as he loved ice cream, but that was dad’s humour and desire to make others feel happier. 

“His father left no instructions when he died, so dad wanted to make sure he left detailed ones so I would be in a position to know what he wanted. 

“It did get a bit tedious after a while when we went through the drill every time I saw him! 

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“He had also worked at Horsham St Faith crematorium for a couple of years in around 2000. He saw a lot of death in his life, which is partly why he was so pragmatic about it.” 

David Buchanan on his Harley-Davidson mobility scooter

Hot wheels: Although initially reluctant to own a mobility scooter, David Buchanan was proud when he realised he could have a Harley-Davidson one - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

David Peter Buchanan was born on August 31, 1945, in the village of Sharnford in Leicestershire and grew up in the area. 

During his youth, he was a talented piano player and earned money by performing in the local pubs on Sunday afternoons. He would also report on football games, providing scores and copy to the national press from a phone box. 

He had dreams of becoming a writer but was steered towards joining the police force as both his father and grandfather had been policemen, with the latter working as an inspector in London’s Metropolitan Police Service where he held the King's Medal for bravery. 

Mr Buchanan joined the Police Cadets in 1961 at the age of 16 and would enlist in the Met in 1964. 

David Buchanan receiving an award for his efforts in policing

A proud moment: David Buchanan (right) receiving an award for his efforts in policing - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Then in the spring of 1965, he met his future wife, Scottish native Sheena Adamson, at the Hendon Police College. They married 10 months later and had two children; Karen in 1968, and David, known as “Diddy”, in 1970. 

The couple separated during the early 2000s and would later divorce, after returning from a life spent together in France, but remained good friends. She died in 2019. 

Mr Buchanan remained at the Met for 26 years and at the time is believed to have been the youngest person offered the role of inspector at the service when he was aged 32. 

By this time, with a young family to look after, he decided he wanted to move his family out of south-west London and up to Norfolk. 

David Buchanan pictured with his former wife, the late Sheena Adamson

Lifelong friends: David Buchanan pictured with his former wife, the late Sheena Adamson. Although they divorced in later life, they remained friends - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

He put in a transfer to Langham, near Holt, north Norfolk, and agreed to drop down two ranks to police constable in 1978. 

Ms Buchanan remembers it being very different to their early life in London, recalling: “It was lovely and we ran wild. We had so much more space and freedom than in London. 

“He also did an awful lot for the village, including setting up a youth club and creating a playing field with Dougie Fairhead. He also compared the Langham Street Festival every year. 

“He was a supporter of young people and giving them self-belief. He was a massive believer in that.” 

Police officer David Buchanan overseeing Princess Diana's visit to Sheringham's former Splash Leisure Centre pool in 1988

A right royal time: One of the many events David Buchanan attended during his years in the police force included overseeing Princess Diana's visit to open Sheringham's former Splash Leisure Centre pool on May 11, 1988 - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Once in Norfolk, Mr Buchanan was promoted to sergeant and became north Norfolk’s crime prevention officer, operating from Norwich. 

So, it was ironic really when he became renowned for leaving his car keys in an unlocked car, as well as his front door unlocked. 

“It was his way of showing trust," his daughter continued. 

“He wanted to instil that trust in people and was always giving them a second chance. 

“In fact, he was generous to a fault sometimes."

After experiencing many highs and lows of the job – including having a child die in his arms following a house fire – Mr Buchanan decided it was time to retire from the force. His last position was being a duty sergeant in North Walsham from 1985. He retired in 1991 at the age of 46. 

Norfolk police officer David Buchanan helping turkeys cross the road

Normal for Norfolk: During his time with Norfolk police, David Buchanan once had to help turkeys cross the road - Credit: ARCHANT

He then became a clerk at Fosters Solicitors in Norwich, and made a lifelong friend in Chris Taylor with whom he went travelling, before working as a taxi driver for Bluebird Taxis in North Walsham. 

Following his divorce, he moved from North Walsham to live with and care for his mother Edith in Aldborough, near Cromer, before she passed away. 

Here, he became a regular in the pubs, of which The Black Boys even secured him a warm, dry spot outside each day for him to sit with a drink in his Harley Davidson mobility scooter, complete with “born to be Wilde” sticker, wearing his neckerchief. 

Other accolades which he achieved during his life was becoming a British Police Judo champion, Met police cadet heavyweight wrestling champion, county swimming champion for Leicestershire, and was also picked to represent the police in the Toyoko Olympics in 1964. 

David Buchanan was a keen athlete and is pictured with a selection of his sporting trophies

Going for gold: David Buchanan was a keen athlete and is pictured with a selection of his sporting trophies - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

He was a founder member of the Sam Smith Singers barbershop quartet and was very involved in the Blakeney Players. He became synonymous with wearing a panama hat in the summer and a trilby hat in the winter.  

Ms Buchanan added: “He just wanted to have a bit of flair and panache. 

“He was one of a kind, most generous, and thoughtful in every aspect. He would read philosophy books and Oscar Wilde books, he was gregarious and very sociable, hated Christmas, was painted into the backdrop of the village pantomime set, loved a laugh, and was very grateful and charming. 

“Once you met him you never forgot him. 

“He always said ‘If I’m not in the obituaries in the Eastern Daily Press today, then it’s a good day’ and at his funeral he will be going out to the song, 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.” 

David Buchanan pictured wearing a trilby hat

Flair and panache: David Buchanan was known for bringing some eccentricity and style to his dress code - including wearing a panama or trilby - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Mr Buchanan died following a short illness on March 26, aged 76. As well as his children, he leaves behind five grandchildren, Connor, Erin, Josef, Kian and Fionnlagh, and a great-granddaughter, Mireya. 

A funeral will take place at St Faith's Crematorium at 10.15am on Friday, April 22.