‘If it wasn’t for the stab-proof vest, I wouldn’t be here to­day’

The shock­ing footage caught on his body­cam showed the mo­ment a drug-crazed man re­peat­edly at­tacked po­lice of­fi­cers with two fear­some kitchen knives. Tyler Mears spoke to PC Rhy­dian Jones about the ex­pe­ri­ence...

Western Mail - - WM2 -

APOLICE of­fi­cer has opened up about the ter­ri­fy­ing mo­ment a drug-fu­elled man lunged at him with huge kitchen knives – with only his body ar­mour sav­ing his life.

Gwent Po­lice Con­sta­ble Rhy­dian Jones said he would not be here to­day if it wasn’t for the stab-proof vest he was wear­ing as Tony But­tigieg re­peat­edly at­tacked him in Oc­to­ber last year.

He de­scribed how he feared for his life as there were “at least three or four” im­pacts from the blades on his vest.

The PC, who has been work­ing as an of­fi­cer in the force for the past decade, said this is the first time he’s ever ex­pe­ri­enced such ex­treme vi­o­lence.

“I’ve dealt with many pub­lic or­der sit­u­a­tions, whether that’s on a Fri­day or Satur­day night, or when we’re ex­e­cut­ing some­thing like a drug war­rant or deal­ing with a vi­o­lent per­son.

“But this is the first time I’ve come that close to se­vere in­jury or po­ten­tially death as a re­sult.”

PC Jones had been called to the block of flats in Caer­leon where But­tigieg lived in the early hours of Oc­to­ber 2 last year by neigh­bours who were con­cerned about his be­hav­iour.

But­tigieg was de­scribed as be­ing in a “fran­tic” state in the com­mu­nal ar­eas of the block, shout­ing and bang­ing on doors and talk­ing about peo­ple com­ing to get him and a £1.5m bounty on his head.

When of­fi­cers ar­rived they found an “ag­i­tated” But­tigieg “pac­ing around” be­hind a glass door in the hall­way on the top floor of the build­ing, armed with two kitchen knives.

PC Jones de­scribed how he made re­peated at­tempts to calm But­tigieg, and get him to put the weapons down – but the de­fen­dant would not be rea­soned with.

“My aim was ul­ti­mately to try and get him to drop the knives,” he said.

But But­tigieg re­fused and PC Jones de­scribed how he con­tin­ued to make threats to­wards him­self, in­clud­ing threats to “stab him­self in the heart”.

PC Jones said: “Mr But­tigieg man­aged to push his way out. I tried to close the door as much as I could, but I was aware of the knives com­ing around the door.

“At this point, I had to let go of the door be­cause I was afraid of get­ting stabbed in my arms. As I’ve done so, I’m then trapped be­tween the wall, a 20ft drop down some stairs and Mr But­tigieg with some knives. As he’s come to­wards me, I’ve tried to keep as much dis­tance as I can. I was lucky he didn’t get me in my arms or my neck, I was fully ex­pect­ing to get caught there.

“I could feel around three or four blows to my midriff area, where it’s hit my stab vest – which, to all in­tents and pur­poses, saved me from be­ing stabbed.”

He added: “The stab vest saved me, with­out a doubt. If it wasn’t for the vest, I wouldn’t be here to­day. My main con­cern at that point was try­ing not to get stabbed. But I was also afraid that if he got past me, he’d be able to get down the stairs and in­jure col­leagues or the other peo­ple in the flats.”

At this point the de­ci­sion was taken to use a Taser on But­tigieg – the glass door was opened enough to al­low the weapon to be fired by PC Jones’ friend and col­league PC Gareth Marsh.

“Ul­ti­mately, we want to pro­tect life, pro­tect mem­bers of the pub­lic, pro­tect the male him­self and pro­tect each other,” PC Marsh said. “I think if we were faced with that sit­u­a­tion with­out the Taser, it would be a very dif­fer­ent out­come. I’m glad no-one was hurt. As po­lice of­fi­cers, we have a duty to pro­tect life and Rhy­dian is a good friend of mine. We are close friends and it’s not nice to see what was hap­pen­ing to him. But at the time, you have to trust in your train­ing to kick in – which it did.”

De­spite the pow­er­ful shock from the stun-gun, the de­vice – which had only partly con­nected with But­tigieg – was not enough to com­pletely in­ca­pac­i­tate him and of­fi­cers had to phys­i­cally re­move the weapons from his grasp.

“It was for­tu­nate that Rhy­dian is the size and is as strong as he is,” PC Marsh said, adding: “He’s a big man and he man­aged to con­tain the male.”

PC Jones de­scribed how, while be­ing de­tained, But­tigieg tried to drag the knife across his stom­ach, in an at­tempt to fur­ther harm him­self.

He said his main aim dur­ing the in­ci­dent was to re­move the weapons from But­tigieg, calm him down and hand­cuff him.

“In train­ing, they talk about a fight or flight mech­a­nism, so it’s just a case of do­ing what you can to pro­tect your­self,” PC Jones said. “He was com­ing at me so quickly, it all hap­pened so fast. Time al­most froze a lit­tle bit and I just started think­ing about what it is I had to do.”

But­tigieg, of Flav­ius Close, Caer­leon, pleaded guilty to at­tempt­ing to in­flict griev­ous bod­ily harm with in­tent when he ap­peared at Swansea Crown Court for sen­tenc­ing.

Judge Paul Thomas QC told But­tigieg he had armed him­self with two “fear­some kitchen knives” from his flat and used them to at­tack po­lice – but that at the time he was clearly suf­fer­ing from a “tem­po­rary psy­chotic episode” fu­elled by drink and drugs.

The judge sen­tenced But­tigieg to four years in prison, half of which he will serve in cus­tody.

Judge Thomas also praised the “calm­ness and pro­fes­sion­al­ism” of the of­fi­cers in­volved.

“I still do think about it pretty much ev­ery day,” PC Jones said.

“It does has an ef­fect on your fam­ily. From their point of view, it makes them feel a lit­tle bit help­less.

“But they’re just happy that it came to a safe con­clu­sion and that we were able to dis­arm him and that no­body was hurt.”

> The mo­ment psy­chotic 36-year-old Tony But­tigieg came at the of­fi­cers with knives was caught on body­cam

> PC Gareth Marsh, left, and PC Rhy­dian Jones ar­rested Tony But­tigieg af­ter he at­tacked them

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