Bexleyheath hero officer Steven Donnelly diffuses the situation
PUBLISHED: 17:00 04 April 2013
"When I saw he had a lighter in his hand and smelt of petrol, I didn't have to think about my next course of action," said Bexleyheath police officer Steven Donnelly.
These are the words of the heroic officer who tackled a disturbed man who had doused himself in flammable liquid and was threatening to set himself alight on a busy Tube platform at Bromley-by-Bow in east London.
With no thought for his own safety, it was his split-second decision to intervene which has earned him a Certificate of Commendation by the British Transport Police – and it is not the first time he has gone above and beyond the call of duty.
The 36-year-old has been honoured three times in his seven years with British Transport Police, the other two were for pulling a suicidal girl from train tracks at Stratford as a train approached, and for arresting a man who had committed a sexual assault and was carrying knives.
Recalling his action at Bromley-by-Bow on June 26 2011, Pc Donnelly said: “It was a unique situation and maybe I was a bit stupid, looking back. We’re taught to maybe be a bit more cautious, but all I could think about was how many people could have been in danger.”
Pc Donnelly and his colleague, Pc Tabatha Virdee, had received reports of a man wielding an axe at West Ham station.
The man was disarmed by off-duty officer Insp John Sanderson, but Pc Donnelly caught up with him at Bromley-by-Bow station and saw what could have been “absolute carnage”. He was banging his head against a train which had just pulled into the station and had written the words “murder” and “kill you” on it in black spray paint.
As Pc Donnelly and his partner, who also received a commendation, approached the man they could smell petrol – and he held a lighter.
“I acted immediately,” recalls Pc Donnelly. “I tried to speak to him, but he wasn’t listening.
“The train doors were about to open and the situation would probably have ended with him setting himself on fire and walking into the train or throwing himself on the track when it had left the station.
“The consequences never bore thinking about.”
Pc Donnelly dived on the man before anyone had the chance to suffer the consequences.
It later transpired that Terry St Hill, of Starboard Way, Crossharbour, had inappropriately touched a female passenger at Stepney Green station earlier that day.
The 27-year-old was later charged with possessing an offensive weapon, sexual assault on a female, common assault and criminal damage.
He was jailed for four years at Blackfriars Crown Court on March 23 last year.
Pc Donnelly admits his latest honour still came as a total shock.
He said: “It was a very pleasant surprise as much as that might sound like a cliché It’s all part of the day job, even if this was a little more extreme than the average day.”
BTP Ch Con Andrew Trotter said: “I was very pleased to present Pc Steven Donnelly with this commendation.
“His quick-thinking and brave actions were absolutely outstanding and a credit to himself and the force.”
n Do you know any local heroes in Bexley who deserve recognition? Contact the newsdesk on 020 8477 3858 or firstname.lastname@example.org.