FOR most 72-year-olds their 18th birthday seems like a lifetime ago but one retired police inspector has had to wait a long time for his.

John Wheeler from Kidlington is finally enjoying his coming of age as a leap year baby with family and friends.

Today Mr Wheeler will celebrate his ‘true’ birthday, which only comes around every four years.

This means that although he will be turning 72 this year, officially it will be his big 18th.

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The father-of-four said celebrating on the actual calendar date of his birthday makes it much more special.

He said: “I feel like I only ever really want to celebrate on my true birthday, rather than the other three years when it doesn’t appear on the calendar.

“It doesn’t feel like much of a celebration then, although my family always do something to celebrate.”

The motorbike enthusiast enjoyed a weekend of celebrations with his wife Sue, daughters Rachel, Claire and Catherine and son Stephen as well as his seven grandchildren.

The family visited Westonbirt Arboretum on Saturday and held a party with friends and family on Sunday to mark the big day.

Mr Wheeler said: “We had the family get-together of 18 of us at the arboretum and the open house on Sunday with all our friends and neighbours.

“All my friends and family say they think I act like an 18-year-old anyway.”

The birthday boy retired from Thames Valley Police in 1992 after 32 years’ service since becoming a cadet in November 1960 age 16.

Days after his 19th birthday, Mr Wheeler was appointed constable on March 1, 1963, becoming the youngest policeman in Oxford – with the moment captured by the Oxford Mail.

Mr Wheeler went on to become a police inspector at the traffic base in Bicester and worked on investigations such as the 33-car collision on the M40 on Valentine’s Day 1991.

Mr Wheeler also ran a driving school for motorists and motorcyclists after retiring from the force. For more than 20 years he taught many local people to drive before retiring last August.

He now spends his days with his family enjoying his BMW R80 RT and BMW K1300 S motorcycles, and will be heading to the Classic TT motorcycle event on the Isle of Man in August.

He said: “I have got one old motorcycle that I have had for 25 years and then a newer one.

“I also do quite a lot of DIY, so I will probably get a few bits from my family for my birthday to help do more work for them.”