Well-known Chichester figure dies of chickenpox

A well-known security guard who worked at Chichester Crown Court has died after suffering from chickenpox.

Steve Whitfield, 51, had worked at the court for six years where he had become a familiar and friendly face to those on the right and wrong side of the law.

He died on Monday, September 7, from bronchopneumonia after suffering from chickenpox the week before his death.

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Family, close friends and court staff gathered in court one last Wednesday to observe a minute's silence in his memory.

Judge William Wood also said a few words, describing him as a man with a heart of gold.

He said: "He was, in my eyes, one of the most cheerful and helpful people you could meet, doing an important and under-valued job. He had a heart of gold, always willing to go the extra mile.

"We are all very shocked that he is not here now and we will miss him, some of us more than I could ever know. Many people in the building are deeply upset."

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Mr Whitfield lived in East Wittering with his close friend Diane Littlewood.

She said: "He used to rescue cats and one time we had a wild one called Sally that wasn't used to people and was always nervous, so he would go and read to it at night-time.

"He was so dedicated to his job."

One story Diane remembers fondly is how Steve chased after a defendant who had escaped the dock. Luckily for Steve, he ran in the direction of the railway station, but was stopped going any further by the train gates which came down.

After catching up with him, Steve received a round of applause from passengers sitting on a bus.

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Before working at the court, he was a security guard at Chichester Festival Theatre and served in the army as a chef in Germany, Canada and Northern Ireland.

He was well known for his charity work for Cats Protection, where he looked after traumatised cats. He also loved to cook.

His sisters Jean Woolger and Jane Short said: "He was a very even and kind man '“ not many people can be like that. He was fun-loving in a gentle way. He always endeared himself to people.

"He didn't have a bad word to say about anybody in court. He would never fly off the handle. He believed in treating people with respect."

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Worthing Herald journalist Chris Taylor said: "Steve was one of the nicest people you could hope to meet.

"I always looked forward to catching up with him when I went to court in Chichester and talking about everything from his army background and work with cats to the state of the nation.

"He wasn't just a bloke I knew through work, I thought of him as a friend and he will be sadly missed."

His funeral will be held at Chichester crematorium on Wednesday, September 23, at 1pm. The family are asking for flowers rather than any donations.

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