Charity cycle challenge organised in memory of police dog handler who took his own life

Mick Atkinson.
Mick Atkinson.

Former colleagues of a police dog handler who took his own life last year are set to embark on a 106.6 mile bike ride to raise money in his memory.

PC Mick Atkinson, 37, tragically took his own life at his his home in Oulton on October 7 2018.

Since his death, his former colleague and best friend PC Pierre Olesqui has organised various charity events to remember Mr Atkinson, known as Aky, and to raise money and awareness around mental health.

The pair met when they were both working at Scarborough police station in 2001 and had remained close friends ever since.

Mr Olesqui said: "He was my best friend by a long way. and my best man at my wedding. I was very proud to have him as my best man.

"In the police force you meet a lot of people who you fall out of touch with when you move stations but with Aky, I hadn't worked with him for the best part of 15 years and I still saw him on a weekly basis.

"We went to see Rhinos together every week.

"He was larger than life, in the time since he's died and when he was alive, I've never heard a bad word about him, not even from criminals.

"He was a big family man, just a really nice guy."

The cycle ride, dubbed the Tour de Aky, will take place on Friday, June 14, starting at Scarborough police station and finishing at Headingley Stadium.

The route has been planned to take 106.6 miles, a nod to Mr Atkinson's collar number 1066, and will take in locations that had meaning to him such as stations he worked at and his high school.

Mr Olesqui was inspired to organise a cycle challenge by Mr Atkinson who had taken part in two challenges himself, one around London and another around Yorkshire, to raise money for ME, which his mum suffers with.

"He was very proud of his achievement," Mr Olesqui explained, "And I wanted to do something which would be a challenge as a way to remember him.

"If everything goes to plan we can do it on a yearly basis to keep him in mind."

So far 81 people have signed up to take part in the challenge, a mixture of police staff, people who new Mr Atkinson from Leeds and others who have heard about his story.

Mr Olesqui continued: "I did it thinking I'd get a dozen, maybe 20 people to join in as it's quite a long way but it's just taken off.

"I'm quite amazed by the response."

The target for the team is to raise £5,000 for Mind and the Leeds Rhinos Foundation, and with a month to go they have received almost £3,500 donations.

"I'd love to make the target, and to beat it," said Mr Olesqui, "But more than the money it's just to tell people to talk.

"The shirts we're riding in have 'It's ok not to be ok' written on them and I'm trying to encourage people to share when they are feeling down."

Mr Olesqui said he had 'no inkling' that his friend was struggling prior to his death as Mr Atkinson was always more concerned with other people.

"He always made you laugh, he had such a way about him. There's a lifetime of stories, every time I spoke to him he made me laugh, cheered me up even though he was fighting daemons himself.

"Since starting to campaign after he died I have had people come and talk to me, people are a bit more open, so it has worked and I'd like to see it work on a bigger stage."

Donations to the team's fundraising can be made via their Go Fund Me page.