Sons' tributes to 'PC Magic' who died with Covid-19 days after son recovered
A veteran police officer with a ‘wicked sense of humour’ died from coronavirus just days after his son was discharged from hospital partly recovered from the disease.
Great-grandfather Don Andrews, 72, died on Easter Sunday - his 17th day in ICU - with his two sons Steve and Dean at his bedside at Queen Alexandra Hospital.
The grandfather-of-seven was one of five people to die at QA Hospital that day, and 12 had died the day before he passed.
Today The News tells his story, in interviews with both grieving sons and former police officers who worked with him.
Known by friends and family for his good humour, and ex-colleagues for his reliability, ex-PC Andrews was known on his Leigh Park beat of yesteryear as PC Magic due to his repeating the word often in his broad Scouse accent.
Up until her death two years ago he lived with his cherished wife Rosie, 68, a retired hospital cleaner, who died after being diagnosed with cancer.
‘It’s devastating,’ said 46-year-old taxi firm night controller Dean, ‘Because I thought he was going to recover through this.
‘We always knew it could come to it, but he’s such a strong person I thought he’d make it through.’
Don’s admission to hospital was a few weeks before his youngest son’s own diagnosis with Covid-19, who was later admitted after collapsing at home.
Dean had said his own falling unwell had ‘felt like someone was standing on my chest’ and only improved after going on a trial drug at hospital and an initial 10 litres of oxygen fired into him like a ‘jetstream’.
Don, who lived with Dean at the family home of 22 years in The Green, West Leigh, had been panting while struggling to breathe when Dean found him and thought he was suffering what would have been his third mini-stroke.
An ambulance was called and paramedics found the former police area car driver had a temperature of 38.9C, and took him to the hospital.
‘The last thing he said to me was “I’ll see you in a couple of days”,’ Dean said.
‘When we FaceTimed he said “I’m going to have a sleep for a few days and will see you soon”.’
When he was admitted doctors found previously clots on his lungs that were previously not known about. He was in an induced coma in the ICU.
Don’s sons were able to be with him in his final moments. ‘Me and Dean stood there for a period of one-and-a-half hours as they removed support,’ former Royal Navy engineer Steve said.
‘The moment it stopped he passed on. The machines were keeping him alive. It was peaceful, really peaceful.
‘It’s a bit strange seeing the life coming out of someone. I had my hand on his chest and... my brother had hold of his head.’
Dean, who was discharged on Good Friday after testing positive for Covid-19 and double pneumonia, added: ‘When I was in hospital I just wanted to get out.
‘When my dad passed I felt really awful that I was out.’
Before falling unwell Don, who worked in security and then as an airport taxi driver after leaving the police, had only recently returned from Thailand with his two sons, and had plans to visit family in Oregon.
He was getting older and showing early signs of dementia, but was otherwise well.
A practical joker, Don won respect from those he served with - and the criminals he dealt with in Hampshire police.
Steve remembers coming home to find a prisoner tied to his garden fence eating a homemade sandwich as Don had stopped home for lunch after an arrest. On another occasion he found his dad and a colleague knocking dents out of their police cars after a game of chase had gone awry.
‘He was a bit of a character,’ Steve added. ‘Even some of the main criminals have said something (about his death).’
Former police sergeant Richard Matthews was on shift with Don, then an area car driver in the 1990s when he was based at Kingston Crescent police station.
‘His distinctive voice was recognised by all the officers on duty,’ said Mr Matthews who is secretary of Portsmouth and South East Hampshire branch of the National Association of Retired Police Officers (Narpo).
‘During his time with our shift he was reliable and forthright always there to help anybody.
‘I think Don would be best remembered as a solid police officer ready to help anyone in need.
‘He was a larger than life character with a wicked sense of humour but always reliable.’
Colin Michie was Don’s acting police sergeant at Fratton. He said: ‘I just loved the man.
‘His comedic personality was so infectious. We went to two serious incidents together in a short space of time, one involving a two-year-old and one where he gave his all giving CPR to a collapse in a News Shop in New Road, Portsmouth, which I put him forward for a commendation and he received a chief superintendent’s congratulations.
‘I just loved his humour and his affection for the film Zulu when he used to walk into the front office at Fratton shouting "stand fast front rank". He was just such a smashing guy.’
Ex-police officer Lee Hunt, who is now a city councillor, paid tribute to a ‘a good man, a good cop taken too early by this rotten virus,’ and added: ‘It was always a delight to serve with Don at Fratton nick; to be in the same room with his never-ending jokes. A proper earthy northerner who loved Portsmouth.
‘Always reliable and a great friend to many – a rare wit and fun in the area car out on patrol; totally unfazed by bundles and mayhem - always in control of his thinking.’
Born in Liverpool, Don is survived by his sister Florence, six grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and his two sons.
A funeral will take place at Portchester Crematorium on May 15 and will be live-streamed to family and friends.