Trustees of the Museum of Policing in Devon and Cornwall have paid tribute to ‘one-of-a-kind, generous, selfless, fun, raconteur’ Bill Tupman – a lynchpin of the charity.
Trustee Bill, from Exeter – who died aged 74 on March 12, 2023, after a short illness – played a ‘crucial’ role in founding the Museum; his dedication to the cause has been described as ‘inspiring’ by those who knew him.
Bill’s loyalty to the charity was clear from the beginning, when in April 2016 he was appointed as Director of the South West Police Heritage Trust – a role he held until his death.
Leading the tributes to Bill Tupman, Steve Pearce, Chair of Trustees at the Museum, said he was a ‘one-off’ who played a ‘pivotal role’ setting up the original South West Police Heritage Trust, now the Museum of Policing in Devon and Cornwall.
Steve said: “He was so passionate about our police heritage he constantly sought out occasions where he could share that passion with the public, colleagues and us all.
“He was delighted when we had found funding to actively digitalise our collection – something he had always advocated from the start.
“It is so sad that he will not see the results of that project – nor indeed many other projects he played a part in that are now coming to fruition.
“The trustees, staff and volunteers will miss Bill greatly, and on their behalf I offer our heartfelt love and thoughts to Cathy and Amy Sue, on the loss of their Dad.”
Bill Skelly, Museum Trustee, who first met Bill when setting up the historical trust to preserve the heritage of Devon and Cornwall Police, said the dad-of-two would be remembered for his ‘wise counsel, personable touch and genuine enthusiasm’.
He added it was his friend’s ‘hard graft and commitment to the cause’ that helped turn the Museum dream into reality.
Paying tribute to Bill, he said: “We first met in early 2016 when I was setting up the historical trust to care for and develop the heritage of Devon and Cornwall Police.
“He was at the very vanguard of this endeavour and his wise counsel, personable touch and genuine enthusiasm were clear from the beginning.
“In the years that followed, these qualities were bolstered by hard graft and commitment to the cause of making the Museum of Devon and Cornwall Police a living reality.
“I know that he was proud of what he helped achieve. I know that his part was crucial and one for which he never took credit.”
Bill’s in-depth knowledge of criminal justice and research proved invaluable to the Museum. Across the UK and internationally, he was a known authority as a consultant in the field of organised crime and terrorism – often called upon to speak by production crews or news outlets.
Andrew Bickley, Museum Trustee, who was on Bill’s interview panel in 2015 to recruit the original group, said: “He was loved, and he will be missed.
He added: “Bill’s legacy will outlast his life and the progress of the museum will be but one aspect of his legacy.”
Andrew said: “His force of personality and unselfish desire to support the development of police heritage in Devon and Cornwall were hallmarks of his character.
“He had immense academic pedigree and had travelled extensively but never lost his humility and ability to relate to people.”
Bill ‘gave his time selflessly’ to the work of the Museum, said Andrew, often travelling by bus to support volunteers, voluntary work or meetings at Okehampton.
Andrew said: “I never heard him complain – he would often deploy his sharp sense of humour when things were tense.
“He was a raconteur. A colourful character who made things interesting.”
Around six months later, in early 2023, he made a difficult decision when illness prompted him to resign as a Trustee.
Ulrike Richards, Museum Vice Chair, and Bill’s friend for 20 years, said: “He loved this Trust and he was beyond excited that it finally gained momentum.
“I know that his heart broke a little when he stepped down as a trustee.”
Trustee Richard Ward, a lecturer in digital history, and historian of crime, justice and punishment in Britain, said Bill led the way in establishing the Museum’s student intern partnership.
Richard, who has ‘fond memories’ of chatting about life with Bill on the bus ride to Okehampton Police Station, where the Museum artefacts are stored, said his support would be ‘sorely missed’.
“Bill really was one of a kind. His vision for the museum was inspiring, as was his energy,” said Richard. “He was instrumental in getting our student intern program going and did so much to support our first intern.
“He was a kind and wise mentor to me within the museum. And he was great fun.”
Devon and Cornwall Police praised Bill for his long-standing commitment to the charity, adding: “Devon and Cornwall Constabulary would like to remember Bill in gratitude for his interest in and support of our heritage, and for the connections with the force that go back decades.”
Honorary university fellow Bill retired as a senior lecturer in 2005 but continued offering research supervision on topics such as terrorism, organised crime, Justice and Home Affairs policy in the European Union, and terrorist financing.
He was ‘particularly interested’ in relationships between Eastern and Western Europe with regards to crime, including the set of rules and legislation known as the Schengen acquis, plus justice and home affairs matters in the European Union.
A celebration of Bill Tupman’s life will be held at 10.30am on Thursday, April 6, at Exeter and Devon Crematorium. Comfortable and colourful clothes can be worn. Tributes to Bill can be left here.