Two officers who needed extensive surgery after being stabbed multiple times in a frenzied attack have been nominated for the National Police Bravery Awards 2023.
Late on 8 July 2021, police received a report of a high-risk missing person who left his home address after perpetrating a domestic assault in Princetown, Dartmoor.
They were described as despondent, under the influence of alcohol and had left in his car whilst in possession of razor blades.
PCs Tim Willett and Darren Brimacombe, who knew of him from their previous work, were already searching for him, and immediately recognised the safeguarding risk relating to his partner.
After locating his car, they found him in the driver’s seat drinking from a bottle and spoke to the verbally aggressive man calmly.
Without warning, he swung at, and narrowly missed, PC Willett with a knife.
He then exploded out of the open car door and attacked PC Brimacombe who was repeatedly stabbed as they grappled on the ground.
The officer suffered lacerations to his scalp and his left eyelid– nearly having the end of his nose cut off and just millimetres away from damaging his eye.
The knife was then plunged into PC Brimacombe’s arm, causing a significant arterial bleed.
PC Willett wrestled him off his injured colleague but was stabbed in the forearm and sliced his fingers as he pulled the blade from his grasp.
Taser was deployed by PC Willett to subdue the male so PC Brimacombe could apply handcuffs and detain him.
PC Brimacombe’s arm was bleeding so heavily, he tried applying his own tourniquet, however, there was so much blood he couldn't keep hold of it and it dropped on the floor.
PC Willett took his own tourniquet and applied it for him, but he couldn't tighten it as his fingers had been so badly cut. They then activated the emergency buttons on their radios to request immediate help.
Fortunately, a double-crewed armed response vehicle from Barnstaple, some 50 miles away, had been monitoring the radio transmissions and were already heading into Dartmoor and fortunately arrived shortly afterwards to render first aid and further assistance.
Both officers needed hospital treatment and have undergone multiple operations as part of their recovery.
In his witness statement, PC Brimacombe said: "There was a point where I was sat there thinking to myself whether I was going to come through all of it. I was genuinely frightened.
"I am troubled by what the outcome may have been should I have been on my own, which happens regularly in policing the rural community.”
PC Willett said: "It was a horrendous situation. I am only thankful that this wasn't far worse, and that I have been able to come home to my wife and children."
Andy Berry, Devon and Cornwall Police Federation chair, said: “Police officers put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect the public and bring bad people to justice. Darren and Tim did just this despite knowing that any backup was quite some distance away.
“They put any concerns about their own safety to one side and showed huge resilience and bravery in bringing Ross, a dangerous individual, to justice. I am humbled by what Darren and Tim did that night and immensely proud to call them colleagues.”
Devon and Cornwall Police Chief Constable Will Kerr said: “Both PC Willett and PC Brimacombe showed exceptional bravery and resilience in their handling of the horror they faced that day.
“Both officers were attacked with a knife while going about their daily duty. While PC Brimacombe was being attacked, PC Willet stepped in to protect his colleague from further injury before being injured himself.
“The courage that both of these officers have shown is nothing short of incredible, putting their own safety at risk to protect others and uphold the law. I have no doubt that the traumatic events of that day stayed with the officers long after their physical injuries had healed.
“I am incredibly proud of their actions and commend the bravery and courage they have shown.”