A woman regularly seen cheerfully walking her dogs around Keswick once had a high profile job ensuring the safety of some of the country’s leading politicians and diplomats.
Min Grant’s life today is a world away from her time as a firearms officer with the Metropolitan Police guarding 10 Downing Street with her colleagues, armed with a Glock nine millimetre self-loading pistol which had 17 bullets in the magazine and a further 17 on her webbing belt.
She was on the security front line and was entrusted with the safety of the likes of Prime Minister John Major, when he lived at St John’s Wood, and also looked out for Jack Straw, Michael Ancram, Mo Mowlam and Robin Cook, when he was Northern Ireland minister, at their London residences.
Min was also a member of the safeguarding team which was given the job of shielding General Augusto Pinochet when he was under house arrest in London, awaiting trial after being indicted for human rights violations committed in his native Chile.
Sometimes she had the job of searching beneath and under the bonnets of cars for hidden bombs and would occasionally be on duty at hotels ensuring the safety of visiting diplomats. “It was quite exciting really,” said Min, who is now a full-time carer for her 89-year-old mother, Julie Smith, and runs her own fully funded dog rescue service in Keswick.
“It was not a job, it was a lifestyle,” she said.
“It’s a job in which you make friends for life. You rely on each other and you have to have each other’s backs. You forge relationships that last a lifetime.”
Min developed cancer in her lymph nodes and was given a medical discharge from the job.
She was not expected to survive because medics could not find the primary site of the disease. But she underwent a successful pioneering operation and has now been in remission for 15 years.
“It was a job I did not want to leave,” she said. “I have so many good memories. The question I used to get asked by the public all the time was if I had ever killed anyone. The answer is no. I never pulled a gun on anyone.”
Min started her career in the Met as a probation officer based on Walworth Road for two years but said she really “cut her cloth” when she moved to Carter Street between the North Peckham Estate and Brixton.
“I loved every minute of my time there,” said Min.
A defining moment in her career was when she lost her first husband, Joe Charnley, who was drowned in a yachting accident between the mainland and Napes Needle on the Isle of Wight.
“I was at a juxtaposition of what I wanted to do with my life when a vacancy came up in firearms and I decided to take a gamble because I had never before held a firearm,” said Min, who underwent an intense training course at Lippitts Hill, Epping Forest, which included diplomatic and close protection, hostage negotiation, roam and search and evacuation, before being posted to Downing Street.
It was during this time that she met her second husband, Fraser Grant, with whom she moved to Keswick 12 years ago.
He died two years later of lung cancer. But she was able to share the highlight of her police career with her husband as they both received a commissioner’s commendation for bravery in 1998.
They were both off duty when they detained an armed robber who was attempting to hold up a Securitas wagon about to fill up the service till at Sainsbury’s in Locksbottom, Kent. The couple had gone there for their weekly food shop when the drama unfolded and they sprang into action.
“But my claim to fame among my colleagues during my time as a firearms officer was that I had this old grey Escort van which had some carpet in the back that had been left over when John Major had moved into his flat at St John’s Wood!”