A FORMER Chief Constable has bought the first number plate issued to the county after a police boss put it up for sale.

Paul West, a former West Mercia Police Chief Constable, has reassured retired officers that the piece of 'police heritage' is safe in his possession.

West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion faced a backlash from ex-officers after he decided to sell the plate.

The 'AB 1' registration was traditionally displayed on the staff cars of Worcestershire's Chief Constables.

It has been reported that Mr West purchased the licence plate for £160,000, despite estimates that it was worth between £225,000 and £275,000.

Mr West, who served as Chief Constable from 2003 to 2011, confirmed that he paid a six-figure sum for the plate.

"I was very strongly opposed to the sale. Once I knew it was on the open market we had a decision in the family," he said.

"We either sat back and let someone with the initials AB with lots of money - likely not from Worcestershire - buy it.

"Or some foreign investor [purchases it] and it disappears forever. Or we do something about it.

"The emotional attachment and significance of the number was such that I would pay whatever it took."

Mr West, who lives in Worcestershire, said he made enquiries about the registration after friends told him it was advertised in The Telegraph.

He added that he understood Mr Campion's decision to sell the plate, given that it had not been used since he retired.

"It's a big decision to make and there's been a big fall-out having made it. He's [Mr Campion] not going to go back on that decision," Mr West added.

The former Chief Constable said he is looking forward to once again driving around in a car which displays the historic plate.

"I was asked yesterday how does it feel and I said it's quite surreal. I had huge pride when I used to drive with 'AB 1'," he said.

"The point was to save the number for Worcestershire because of what it means for the history and heritage of the county."

Mr West has made a public commitment that he will not sell the plate during his lifetime and said it will pass on to his family when he dies.

Mr Campion said: "The local history of 'AB 1' was always secure come what may, but sadly it was clear we were never going to see it in use again.

"This sale achieves a significant amount of money towards policing our communities and keeping people safe.

"It also means 'AB 1' retains a good link with West Mercia’s policing family and remains a part of the local landscape."

Vehicle registration was introduced in 1903 and it is believed 'AB 1' was first issued to the county in 1908 to Worcestershire's Chief Constable Herbert Sutherland Walker.