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‘Team effort’ helped police sergeant tackle Manchester Victoria knifeman

Sergeant Lee Valentine said ‘instinct took over’ when the assailant launched his assault.

Police at Victoria Station in Manchester (Pat Hurst/PA)
Police at Victoria Station in Manchester (Pat Hurst/PA)

A police sergeant who was injured in a suspected terror attack on New Year’s Eve has said “instinct took over” as he ran towards the knifeman.

Sergeant Lee Valentine was one of three people injured in the knife attack at Manchester Victoria station at about 9pm on Monday.

A 25-year-old man, who was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, has been detained under the Mental Health Act and is in a secure medical facility, while a counter-terrorism investigation is under way.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said officers are confident the man “acted alone in the final stages of the attack” and investigators will focus on whether anyone else was involved.

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Police restraining the man (Sam Clack/PA)

British Transport Police (BTP) Chief Constable Paul Crowther praised the bravery of Sgt Valentine and his colleagues and said they had averted a tragedy of a far greater scale.

Sgt Valentine, who is recovering at home after suffering a stab wound to his shoulder, said: “The past 48 hours have been overwhelming.

“My team and I are grateful to everyone who sent in messages of support, it really does mean the world to us.

“We had no idea what we were running towards when we heard the screams on New Year’s Eve.

“When we saw the man wielding a knife, instinct took over and we were able to, in company with travel safe officers from Metrolink, successfully detain the male.”

Mr Crowther said Sgt Valentine was “very lucky”.

“He’s got a nasty injury but he could have been much, much worse,” he said.

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The wounded being treated at Manchester Victoria railway station (Sam Clack/PA)

“He very much feels that it was a team effort and everybody was in this together.

“He got injured in the way he did but I think it’s a mark of the man that he constantly wants to emphasise the efforts of all of his team in doing this and I think they did a brilliant job together.”

Sgt Valentine had had been on patrol at the station, nearby the Manchester Arena, along with three colleagues when they confronted the attacker with Tasers and pepper spray.

A couple, aged in their 50s, suffered multiple stab wounds, which are serious but not life-threatening, in the “random” attack.

GMP said: “The man has made some good progress and is expected to be released in the next day or so. His partner is also making progress but is expected to be in hospital for longer.”

The suspect was heard to shout “Allah” and “Long live the Caliphate” during the incident at the station.

While he is detained, GMP said officers will consult with medical specialists and the Crown Prosecution Service over any potential criminal prosecution.

What they did on the night was just in the finest traditions of policing, everything we'd expect of people, selflessness, disregard for their own personal safety, wanting to get in there and protect people Paul Crowther, Chief Constable, British Transport Police

Mr Crowther said: “My personal view is they have averted a tragedy of a far greater scale than was the case, as significant and bad as it was.

“What’s clear to me having talked to them is firstly, how humble they are, secondly how concerned they are about the wellbeing of the two individuals that were assaulted and I think they probably underestimate precisely what they did and how brave they were.”

In a statement, the family of the man detained under the Mental Health Act, who live in the Cheetham Hill area of the city, said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were seriously injured, their families and friends.

“We are also eternally grateful for the swift response from the emergency services and the comfort given to those affected by fellow Mancunians and citizens.”

Mr Crowther said the events of May 22 2017, when suicide bomber Salman Abedi killed 22 people after he detonated a device at the Manchester Arena, were still fresh in the minds of BTP officers when the incident happened.

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Police at Victoria Station in Manchester (Pat Hurst/PA)

He said: “What they did on the night was just in the finest traditions of policing, everything we’d expect of people, selflessness, disregard for their own personal safety, wanting to get in there and protect people.

“We’re all incredibly proud of them.”

He said the officers were “upbeat” and moved by the messages of support from members of the public.

He added: “The sergeant who was injured is clearly an experienced officer, the officers that he was working with are junior in service but they performed way beyond what we might expect someone of their service to do.

“I think it’s real testament to their bravery and their disregard for their own personal safety to get stuck in and do what they did.”

Mr Crowther said support would be put in place for the officers as they returned to work.

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