A police officer who spent much of her 28-year career in Suffolk has retired and explained why she found it such a “privilege” working for the force.

Durham Constabulary Assistant Chief Constable Tonya Antonis spent 26 years in Suffolk before leaving the county.

She left school at 16 and didn’t become a constable until 1996 when she was 29, having first worked with customs and excise at the port of Felixstowe and in advertising sales with her local newspaper, the East Anglian Daily Times.

Ms Antonis joined Suffolk Police when she was 29Ms Antonis joined Suffolk Police when she was 29 (Image: Newsquest)

Ms Antonis described her first arrest: “I’d been given my police-issue skirt and a handbag with a truncheon in.

"My first arrest was a well-known prolific burglar, I had to hitch my skirt up to chase him across the roads, but I made the arrest and then carried out the interview and he admitted everything under interview and we got a result: I remember thinking: ‘well, maybe this isn’t so difficult after all’."

Ms Antonis went on to serve in a variety of uniformed and detective roles at Suffolk, but her time in Safeguarding made the deepest impression.

She added: “The jobs which stay with you are those child protection jobs from my time in safeguarding: they were the most challenging, those were the cases that kept me awake at night worrying about the vulnerable victims, but they were also the most rewarding.

“The convictions we got were down to those really brave victims, incredible people who stood up and told their stories. It was harrowing, but they were so strong”.

A keen cyclist and runner, Ms Antonis has previously represented her country in the gruelling sport of triathlon, including winning silver for Great Britain at the 2010 European Championships held in France.

Only this month, she completed a 100-mile cycle ride in memory of former Durham officer PC Jonathan Green to raise money for a charity helping the families of police officers and staff who have lost their lives on duty.

Now aged 56, she plans to take retirement more leisurely with her husband at their adopted home in Weardale.

Ms Antonis added: “I will decompress. I plan to walk the dog, ride my bike through those beautiful parts of County Durham which we haven’t visited yet and just enjoy having time with the family.

“We all want to join policing because we want to make the world a better place.

“As I step away, I am really proud that I can say that I did what I set out to do: I did make it better for those victims – I can look back and know I made a difference”.