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West Midlands Police Federation

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Courageous officers receive Pride of Britain Award

27 October 2022

Pride of Britain

The brave duo with Phillip Schofield, Holly Willoughby, Holby actress Adjoa Andoh and actor Adrian Lester.

“People keep on throwing the term ‘hero’ around and it’s hard to take in because I was just doing the job I love doing,” says courageous Federation member PC Leon Mittoo who was one of two West Midlands officers to be chosen by This Morning for this year’s Emergency Services Pride of Britain Award.
Leon and his colleague James Willetts were just one-and-a-half-years into their probation period when they were both attacked and repeatedly stabbed while on duty back in the summer of 2021.

The pair have now received the prestigious award as a result of their brave actions, which saw them help detain two dangerous offenders, both of which were carrying bags full of weapons including a machete, a gun, hammers and knives.

“To be honest, I thought it was a joke when I was first told that we had even been nominated, I thought someone was winding me up. Of course, I am extremely proud of receiving a Pride of Britain Award but I was just doing my job, it’s not really sunk in yet,” said father-of-two Leon, who along with James, was officially presented the award on Monday night at the annual ceremony which will be aired on national television tonight.

Last July, Leon was patrolling West Bromwich when he noticed a couple of suspicious-looking males hanging outside of a shop.

Leon recalls that there had been a lot of armed robberies in the area and it was the day the schools were breaking up for summer, so a Section 60 had been put in place - in anticipation that there would be trouble.

“It was around 11.15 am and 28 degrees hot, yet these two men were double-layered up, wearing big coats and jackets, as well as backpacks. Something just wasn’t right,” continued Leon, who has only recently completed his two-year probationary period of the Degree Holder Entry Programme.

Having left the store entrance, along with a female - who turned out to be their sister - Leon and fellow crew member PC Davis, made the decision to follow them.

“We soon caught up with them and saw James and another officer PC Priest in the distance, so between us, we had cornered them. It was at this point that one of them started to run,” said Leon.

“The other man then took off his backpack and takes off this machete - although it wasn’t until court that I realised that’s what it was because he quickly swapped it for a kitchen knife.”

Upon noticing the weapon, Leon explains how he drew pepper spray from his bag and managed to deter both offenders at once.

“One of the men was wildly swinging and the other chased after PC Priest. I think the adrenaline really kicked in then, and I just had tunnel vision and went after him.”

Upon catching the offender up, Leon soon found himself being repeatedly stabbed in the back, before feeling a blow to his head.

“Luckily, I had a stab vest on - and if I hadn’t had that on, I would have died. It’s fair to say, that stab vest saved my life,” added Leon, who stopped the stabbing by hitting the offender on the head with the empty can of pepper spray.

Upon seeing the offender trying to stab him again, Leon managed to grab the blade of the knife, before discarding the weapon.

James had also been struck to his head by the other offender, who had concealed a Stanley knife in his hand. By this time, backup had been called and the two offenders were immediately arrested.

Fortunately, both officers came away with minor injuries, with Leon receiving stitches on his hand, and his head injury glued together. James also needed the wound on his head glued.

Leon said: “I remember thinking, ‘I’m a dead man’ when the guy started stabbing me and to be honest, it was pure adrenalin that got me through. It was very scary.”

The two offenders were both sentenced and given a combined prison sentence of 18 years, with a number of dangerous weapons found in their backpacks following the assault.

“They were both deemed violent individuals in court and although there was no evidence that they were planning terrorist-related offences, it was clear they wanted to hurt people on that day,” added Leon.

“We were really lucky. If it had been a normal day without a Section 60 in place, there wouldn’t have been as many officers ready to help.

“I won’t lie, the experience really affected me and my mental health. For at least six months after the event, I definitely struggled.”

Last week, Leon and James were surprised, live on air by ITV’s This Morning team, letting them know they had won a Pride of Britain Award.

With Paddy McGuinness

The two officers with Paddy McGuinness.

On Monday (24 October), the duo - dressed in police tunics - headed down to London, where they attended the star-studded award ceremony, complete with walking the celebrity-filled red carpet.

“It was a very surreal experience, to say the least,” said Leon, who was presented the award by This Morning’s Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield, as well as cast members from the hit TV series Bridgerton. 

“I couldn’t believe how many celebrities were there - the room was full of famous footballers, actors, people from reality shows and television stars. I was sitting at a table with Gail from Coronation Street.

“We also had dinner with our fellow winners, which was amazing. They had done incredible things, with some raising thousands of pounds for charity. It was an honour to be part of.”

James added: “I feel very proud to have won the award, although myself and Leon were simply doing our job at the end of the day.

“Receiving the award was definitely an experience - being in a room full of amazing people from different communities.”

Fed chair Rich Cooke, who has praised the ‘courageous duo’, says the entire membership ‘is very proud of them’.

“I know both Leon and James will feel that they are accepting this award on behalf of all officers, up-and-down the country who find themselves in difficult situations on a daily basis, but this was not normal, even by the standards of today’s violent streets” added Rich.

“On behalf of the Federation, I’d like to say a huge congratulations to Leon and James, their Pride of Britain Award is thoroughly well-deserved. In the face of danger and a sudden, unexpected extreme threat, they dealt with the situation head-on, demonstrating amazing bravery.”