A MUCH-LOVED police dog with the record for the most “operational bites” in Essex Police has been awarded a posthumous medal.

Police dog Wilson, known as “Big Will”, was known for his ability to track down criminals, and was loved by the public after featuring several times in the Echo.

The seven-year-old German Shepherd lived with handler PC Tony Mayo.

He was one of 14 dogs awarded a service medal at the force’s Chelmsford headquarters. Former dog handler PC Paul Nicholls came up with the idea to recognise the dogs’ achievements after installing a plaque dedicated to the memory of police dogs.

Insp Brad Dickel said: “Without doubt, this initiative by Paul has stirred the public’s interest and deep respect for the work police dogs perform and it is a fitting tribute to him that the medal will forever be known as The Paul Nicholls Medal.”

Four dogs that have since died, including Wilson, received posthumous medals which were presented to their emotional former police handlers and owners.

The medals, which have been funded by the Essex Police Federation, were presented by Assistant Chief Constable Pippa Mills, Lord Petre, Lady Rosemary Ruggles-Brise, patron of the Essex Retired Police Dogs Fund, and Linda Belgrove, chairman of the fund.

The dogs who received medals were Caesar, Kobi, Niko, Mac, Argon, Blade, Boo, Fidget, Freya, King, Rhianna, Sire, Storm and Wilson. Just weeks before he retired, Wilson tracked down a suspected teenage thief in High Road, Laindon. The Echo told how Wilson had to be pout down two weeks ago, just weeks after retiring from the force, because of inoperable cancer.

An Essex Police spokesman said: “Wilson was commonly known as Big Will, as he was the biggest police dog in size and character, weighing in at a whopping 51kg. He holds the record for most operational bites in the force’s history.”