Manchester stabbings: Police sergeant's 'instinct took over'

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Media captionManchester stabbing: Police restrain suspect

A police officer's "instinct took over" as he faced a terror suspect in a "frenzied" knife attack in Manchester.

Sgt Lee Valentine, who was stabbed in the attack at Victoria station on New Year's Eve, said he had "no idea" what he would face when he heard screams.

Two other people were also stabbed before Sgt Valentine and fellow officers disarmed a man, who has been detained under the Mental Health Act.

Chief Constable Paul Crowther said they were "heroes" who "averted" a tragedy.

Image caption Police raided a house in the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester on Tuesday

Sgt Valentine, who has asked media not to use his picture, had been the first on the scene of the attack, a British Transport Police spokeswoman said.

The officer said the positive public response to his team's action "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," he said.

"When we saw the man wielding a knife, instinct took over and we were able to... successfully detain the male."

'Eternally grateful'

Mr Crowther said the "horrific incident underlines the bravery of our officers, who selflessly ran towards danger".

Praising his "modest" officers he said: "I don't think they quite realise how important their intervention was.

"I am convinced they averted a tragedy of far greater proportions.

"I think they were heroes - they don't think that themselves. They were really concerned for the other people who were injured and for the Metrolink staff."

He added: "Their quick-thinking and outstanding response helped to prevent more passengers being hurt and stands as a testament to the force."

Sgt Valentine was treated in hospital for knife wounds to his shoulder but was later discharged. The injured man and woman, who are both in their 50s, remain in hospital.

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Image caption Police patrols have increased at all the city's stations since the attack

A Greater Manchester Police (GMP) spokesman said the man was making "some good progress" and was expected to be discharged next week, but his partner was expected to stay in hospital for a "longer" period".

The family of the 25-year-old suspect, who was detained under the Mental Health Act on Tuesday, have said their "thoughts and prayers" are with the three victims.

In a statement, they said they were "eternally grateful for the swift response from the emergency services".

A GMP spokesman said officers had now completed a search of the suspect's home in Cheetham Hill.

He said officers were "increasingly confident that the man acted alone in the final stages of the attack", but added the investigation would continue to "examine if anybody may have encouraged or assisted the man".

He added the detained man was now in a "secure medical facility" and would remain there for several months.

Speaking through a solicitor, the suspect's family said they were also grateful for "the comfort given to those affected by fellow Mancunians and citizens".

Detention under the Mental Health Act

  • People detained under the Mental Health Act need urgent treatment and are at risk of harm to themselves or others
  • Police officers can take someone who they believe is in need of immediate care or control to a place of safety (a hospital or, sometimes, a police station) and detain them under Section 136 of the act
  • The detained person is then assessed by an approved mental health professional and a doctor and can be held for up to 72 hours - during which time a decision will be made as to whether further detention (of up to six months) under the act is necessary
  • Detention under the act means someone can be medically treated against their will

Source: NHS

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, former GMP Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said the use of the Mental Health Act to detain the suspect did not stop it "from being a terror attack, particularly for the people involved".

"The big question is why would somebody who has got a mental illness be inspired or incited... to carry out an attack," he said.

"What we know is that people who perhaps have an existing problem in their lives... are particularly vulnerable to be targeted, to be radicalised, and that is why there is much closer working between police and the mental health agencies [while] always respecting patient confidentiality."

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