Four off-duty police officers from Lancashire – one of them a former Preston North End star – have been hailed as heroes after tackling a knifeman and a 12-strong mob in a park.
The officers, all on a course in Surrey, bravely intervened when they saw a youth being threatened with an eight-inch blade.
Despite not having stab vests, batons and sprays, the four, including ex-PNE winger Graham Houston, waded in, one of them rugby tackling the knifeman to the ground, while the others held back his angry accomplices.
“The one with the large knife was trying to slash away at another guy who was backing off trying to avoid it,” said Graham, who played 128 times for North End between 1979 and 1985 and is a now sergeant based at Hutton headquarters.
“We felt we had to do something and I suppose instinct and training just kicked in.”
Sgt Ian McVety, based in Morecambe, dived in to floor the knifeman, with Insp Zegham Awan, from Chorley, helping to restrain him on the ground.
Sgt Houston and PC Stuart Parry, from Blackpool, were left to fend off up to a dozen teenagers, all thought to be under the influence of drink, before order was restored and local police arrived on the scene.
The drama happened as the four were walking through Leatherhead Park in Bull Hill, Leatherhead on their way to a restaurant.
Sgt McVety said: “I grabbed the lad with the knife, closely followed by Insp Awan. I took him to the ground and he was putting up a bit of a struggle, but we managed to restrain him.
“I suppose it was quite frightening really because as we approached him he was still flashing the knife around. I was thinking how we were going to deal with it because we didn’t have body armour or anything to protect us.
“As we were on the ground it was up to Stuart and Graham to fend off the others and convince them we were police officers.”
Insp Awan added: “I think we went beyond the call of duty consdering we were off duty and we weren’t wearing uniforms, or body armour and we didn’t have radios.
“We knew we needed to do something about the situation, but it was quite and instinctive action by Ian to dive in without any thought for his personal safety. Once he had made the move our training kicked in.
“In reality it was quite a scary incident, not just because we were faced with a male with a knife who was not afraid to throw it around and try to stab someone, but also there were a dozen of his friends.
“It had the potential to be a really nasty incident, but we managed to turn a very dangerous situation into a safe one, with no-one hurt.”
The four officers, all Police Federation reps on a training course at the union’s headquarters in Leatherhead, were praised for their bravery by colleagues back at the Federations office in Hutton.
“We think they were very brave facing up to someone with an eight inch knife,” said Lancashire vice-chairman Steve Rothwell. “They didn’t have stab vests or anything to protect themselves.
“I think all police officers would do it without question. But that doesn’t take anything away from the bravery they showed.
“Ironically all four of them were in Surrey for a course on how to deal with situations just like this.”
Surrey Police a teenager was charged later with possessing an offensive weapon and possession of cannabis.