‘My pri­or­ity was not get­ting stabbed ...’

DC Glynn Pow­ell de­scribes tack­ling knife-wield­ing Piotr Swiatek at the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment al­most a year to the day after PC Keith Palmer was bru­tally slain in a ter­ror­ist at­tack at West­min­ster

The Herald on Sunday - - NEWS FOCUS - By Peter Swin­don

A COURA­GEOUS po­lice of­fi­cer who faced down a knife- wield­ing thug at­tempt­ing to set fire to the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment has re­vealed he feared he could have been stabbed to death in an at­tack sim­i­lar to the mur­der of PC Keith Palmer at West­min­ster.

De­tec­tive Con­sta­ble Glynn Pow­ell bravely dis­armed Piotr Swiatek, who was jailed for 30 months in Oc­to­ber for pour­ing fuel on wooden posts be­fore pulling out a large kitchen knife.

Quick-think­ing Pow­ell, 49, ran out of the en­trance hall of the Par­lia­ment to tackle Swiatek and pin him to the ground in the in­ci­dent on March 24, two days after the first an­niver­sary of a ter­ror at­tack at the UK Par­lia­ment in West­min­ster which left 48-year-old po­lice of­fi­cer Keith Palmer and four pedes­tri­ans dead.

Palmer was stabbed to death by Khalid Ma­sood sec­onds after he mowed down and killed Kurt Cochran, 54, Les­lie Rhodes, 75, Aysha Frade, 44, and An­dreea Cris­tea, 31, while speed­ing across West­min­ster Bridge in a car.

Pow­ell, whose wife is also a po­lice of­fi­cer, said he thought about Palmer in the min­utes after the in­ci­dent at Holy­rood in March this year.

“That sit­u­a­tion could have hap­pened again, if things had gone dif­fer­ently,” said Pow­ell. “These are the thoughts you have after an event like that. The events at West­min­ster were very tragic and they came to the fore­front of my mind. It’s very sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances.

“Ob­vi­ously, the mo­ti­va­tion turned out to be dif­fer­ent but, the ac­tual cir­cum­stances in­volv­ing the knife, you’ve got to draw sim­i­lar­i­ties.”

Pow­ell was six years into a stint as a uni­formed of­fi­cer at Holy­rood. It was a typ­i­cally busy Satur­day – the Par­lia­ment build­ing in Ed­in­burgh was packed with tourists and the area out­side thronged with sight­seers – un­til Swiatek ar­rived.

He said: “I caught sight of him crouch­ing next to wooden poles, right up against the build­ing. I thought it was a bit strange, so I went up the glass tran­sit cor­ri­dor to have a closer look. I’m look­ing at him through the glass and he’s put an un­known sub­stance all over the win­dow and the wood and he’s got some­thing in his hand which turned out to be a lighter. I could see a flame and I im­me­di­ately formed the opin­ion he was try­ing to set fire to the build­ing.

“I raced back out of the front en­trance and ran to­wards him, shout­ing at him to stop. When I was a yard or two away from him, he stood up and pulled a large kitchen knife out of his jacket. As soon as I’m upon him, with­out any warn­ing what­so­ever he raises it above his head. I as­sumed he was go­ing to bring it down on me.”

It was then that Pow­ell took the split-sec­ond de­ci­sion to tackle Swiatek, a 31-year-old Pol­ish na­tional. “I in­stinc­tively grabbed the arm which was hold­ing the knife,” said Pow­ell. “There was a brief tus­sle, dur­ing which he dropped the knife. Then I put him to the ground.”

Pow­ell was re­luc­tant to dis­cuss the tech­nique he used be­cause it could in­form crim­i­nals how to “coun­ter­act” the move, but he said it was based on of­fi­cer safety train­ing.

Pow­ell is an im­pos­ing fig­ure, stand­ing six feet three inches tall, but Swiatek was no pushover. He said: “He looked in pretty good shape. Dur­ing the court trial I looked at him sit­ting in the dock and he looked like he’s lifted a weight or two.

“Luck­ily I was stronger than him and he went down. It was in­stinct, re­ally. I didn’t have time to think about it when the knife went up. My pri­or­ity was not get­ting stabbed.”

As Pow­ell knelt on Swiatek’s chest to re­strain him, Par­lia­ment se­cu­rity of­fi­cers who had run out to as­sist spot­ted the han­dle of a sec­ond knife stick­ing out of the top of Swiatek’s jeans.

Pow­ell said: “I turned around be­hind me and pulled it out of his waist­band and threw it a safe dis­tance away. For­tu­nately, he didn’t have a chance to go for the knife be­cause I had him. The chances of him get­ting that knife were slim.”

It emerged dur­ing Swiatek’s trial at Ed­in­burgh Sher­iff Court that he had poured flammable bar­be­cue fluid on the Par­lia­ment and planned to set it alight be­fore Pow­ell stepped in.

He was found guilty of at­tempted fir­erais­ing, pos­sess­ing two knives and hold­ing a blade above his head. He had been drink­ing heav­ily that day and had trav­elled by train from his home in Liv­ingston. His de­fence lawyer said Swiatek of­fered no ex­pla­na­tion for his ac­tions.

Sen­tenc­ing him to 30 months, Sher­iff

The events at West­min­ster were very tragic and they came to the fore­front of my mind. They were very sim­i­lar ...

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