On 15 October 2021, police were called to reports of a stabbing in a church in Leigh-on-Sea. PC Ryan Curtis and PC Scott James, who were unarmed, were the first officers on scene and arrived to find people fleeing the church.
The officers waited outside the church for a Taser unit to arrive but were told by a member of the public that the suspect was inside and was waiting for police. They made the brave decision to enter the church and get eyes on the suspect, who they saw was still holding the knife.
PC Curtis and PC James gave the suspect clear verbal commands to drop the knife, while directing members of the public to leave the church. The suspect started walking towards the officers with the knife, but they eventually persuaded him to drop it. As soon as he dropped it, both officers moved quickly to take him to the ground, put him in handcuffs and place him under arrest for murder.
Insp Andrew Jopson, Sgt Jonathan Main, PC Daniel Smy, PC L’Wren Bremer and PC Lily Wellington arrived on scene minutes later to assist. Between them, they began CPR on the stabbing victim, who they recognised to be MP Sir David Amess.
Meanwhile, paramedics and a heli-med team had arrived and were made aware that it was safe for them to enter and begin work on the victim.
Insp Jopson, Sgt Main, PC Smy, PC Bremer and PC Wellington worked alongside the paramedics in an attempt to save the victim’s life. They spent nearly an hour providing assistance in what was a very distressing scene, as Sir David had severe injuries. Sadly he died at the scene.
PC James recalled: “I remember it all happening very quickly, one minute we were conducting a routine arrest and the next minute we were on blue lights to the church where we knew the suspect was still inside with a knife.
PC Curtis added: “Our main thought was to get there as quickly as possible – we did not really have time to think, we just wanted to stop anyone else from being seriously injured.”
PC James said: “No-one knew if there were any other members of the public inside with the attacker. At this point we knew there was no option other than for Ryan and I to go inside without taser or firearms support.
“We couldn’t stand outside if there was a chance other people were getting attacked and we also wanted to get paramedics inside the building as soon as possible to save Sir David.
“Our biggest fear that day was that there were other defenceless people inside with Sir David waiting for the police to come through the door – so any fears we had were put to one side.
PC Curtis added: “Once we got inside, we shouted at the suspect to drop the weapon and he refused and then he started walking towards us with the knife.
“We didn’t know what he was going to do, we knew he might attempt to attack us, but we had to stop him getting past us as there were other members of the public outside. We carried on shouting at him and trying to persuade him to stop and eventually he dropped the weapon allowing us to arrest him.”
Insp Jopson said: “We had to deal with a lot of trauma. Two of the officers there had barely two years’ service and they were thrust right into the centre of what was one of the most high-profile incidents nationally. They all did an amazing job.
“The whole team, not just the police response, but also the way we worked with paramedics and the heli-med team, was tremendous. It was a joint response. You think about the number of professionals that are involved in something like that, and it could have been anyone with those sorts of injuries, the response would have been just as thorough.”
Laura Heggie, Chair of Essex Police Federation, said: “Ryan, Scott, Andrew, James, Daniel, L’Wren and Lily are an absolute credit to Essex Police. We are so proud of them.
“Despite being front and centre of what was an incredibly harrowing incident, everyone in attendance conducted themselves with professionalism and compassion. And no shortage of bravery. Little did they know when they arrived at that church the international spotlight that was going to be on them and their actions that day and they all did Essex proud. Ryan and Scott put the lives of the public ahead of their own and this is yet another example of Police Officers running towards danger when others can run away.
“I commend them all on their courage and fortitude; they should all be very proud of their actions that sad day.”
Laura added: “Our thoughts remain with Sir David’s family.”
In April, Ali Harbi Ali was given a whole-life sentence for murdering Sir David Amess MP.
PC Curtis and PC James – who are not pictured – were later awarded the Essex Police Merit Star by the Essex Chief Constable.
Insp Jopson, Sgt Main, PC Curtis, PC James, PC Wellington, PC Bremmer and PC Smy will attend the Essex Police Federation Bravery Awards on 26 May where an overall winner will be announced.
The Awards are in Association with Uniform Mortgages. The hashtag for the event is #EssexFedBravery.