Three Hitchin police officers who clung to a woman through the railings of a bridge for over an hour, to stop her falling to her death on the dual carriageway 70ft below, will receive top national life-saving awards.

The woman had called the Samaritans at around 2.30am on August 16 last year to say she was suicidal and was on a bridge near Baldock.

Police sergeant Ricky Carter, police constable Jamie Hornet and a third officer, who cannot be named, all rushed to the scene to help save her life.

They found her sitting precariously in the darkness on the outside of the bridge safety railings, with her legs dangling over the edge, holding the railings with both hands.

The woman told the police officers she had overdosed on sleeping tablets and painkillers.

Eventually, they persuaded her to come back to the safe side of the railings.

However, because she was becoming drowsy and her strength was failing, she was unable to do this.

Due to the height of the railings, there was no way they could pull her back over them to safety, so the three officers reached through the railings and grabbed hold of her hands, arms and torso and held her there as she became weaker and drowsier.

They were on their knees, leaning through the railings, clinging to her in this way for almost an hour before the fire brigade arrived and were able to get her down safely.

The three police officers are now set to all receive Royal Humane Society Testimonials on Parchment.

The Royal Humane Society was founded in 1774 and is a national charity that honours bravery in the saving of human life.

Andrew Chapman, the society's secretary, said: "The three of them must have been at the point of collapse after nearly an hour on their knees clinging to the woman, but they were determined not to let her fall.

"They were truly heroic and richly deserve the awards they are to receive."