Police Federation


Four officers have been nominated for the national Police Bravery Awards 2024 for their courage in the face of an unfolding crisis with a vulnerable individual armed with petrol and a lighter.

In December 2022, an absconder from Northgate Hospital, who had jumped from a roof of a hospital building and ran away from staff, returned with a can of petrol and a lighter. The man was in crisis and suffering from severe psychosis and was detained under the Mental Health Act.

PCs Luchia Blyth and Natalie Smith from Norfolk Constabulary attended the scene initially to take details of the man and check to see if he was injured. Whilst searching the grounds of the hospital, they located the patient on a fire escape access ladder who was dousing himself with petrol and holding a lighter.

They communicated key information to the control room and established an initial cordon to also protect staff, before calmly talking to the vulnerable male, making negotiation attempts under exceptional pressure.

As the incident unfolded, the offender dangled from the edge of the fire ladder, the platform surrounding it also soaked in the flammable liquid. Threatening to set himself alight and jump, PCs Smith and Blyth continued negotiation attempts, and the man stepped backwards onto a steady surface.

The situation escalated and the patient climbed down the ladder whilst still in possession of the lighter and soaked himself in an entire can of petrol, threating PC Blyth and Smith he will set himself, and them, alight if they followed him. He walked from the buildings towards the exit of the hospital.

To allow time, distance and space and facilitate the attendance of specialist resources – PCs Blyth and Smith, and now PS Matthew Bloomfield, followed the offender in company with the silver commander, an inspector who wishes to remain anonymous. A containment was set up around the subject to create a safe working space and officers continued to make attempts to negotiate whilst tactical plans were put into place to mitigate the risk to the public, officers, and the patient.

The man re-stated his intention to set himself alight at a shopping centre and to set officers alight if they attempted to stop him. He began to head towards a busy shopping area, three days before Christmas.

A tactical parameter was set up, but this was quickly breached. At great personal risk, another officer grabbed the offender’s hand in which the lighter was held and held onto this as hard as he could. The inspector then deployed PAVA to incapacitate the man safely, and with the assistance of PCs Blyth and Smith, managed to seize the lighter. His fuel-soaked clothes were then removed.

The officers involved in this detention also became soaked in fuel from the struggle for the lighter and were at immediate risk of potentially life-changing harm to prevent the subject entering high footfall areas.

The patient was moved to hospital by ambulance and was eventually placed in a more secure facility.

Norfolk Police Federation Chair Andy Symonds said: “My colleagues who’ve been nominated this year for a bravery award are exactly what police officers are all about. They are brave, selfless, and highly professional.

“These qualities are shown in abundance in the incident they were dealing with. They were dealing with a seriously unwell member of the public who had poured large amounts of petrol over himself, had a lighter and was threatening officers.

“They put themselves in harm’s way over a prolonged period so that no innocent member of the public was injured. But the reality was in doing so it meant they were placing themselves in direct danger of being seriously harmed. However due to these officers’ bravery, skill, and professionalism they brought this incident to a safe conclusion.

“It could have easily been that my colleagues could have been in hospital suffering from serious burn injuries. They deserve the nomination and admiration for their brave actions, and I know they have it from me, all colleagues in Norfolk and importantly the silent majority of the public that supports police officers in the work they do. Put simply, I’m super proud of them and will make sure we spoil them over the two days they are with us during the bravery awards in London.”

Paul Sanford, Chief Constable of Norfolk Constabulary, said: “These officers acted in the highest traditions of the service to ensure a vulnerable person could be brought to safety. These are the qualities we look for in police officers, they exemplify bravery and professionalism in dealing with such a challenging situation and dealing with someone in a distressing situation as well as keeping members of the public safe.”


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