‘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...
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