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Crowd yell 'light them up' as police doused in fuel after high-speed chase  


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Crowd yell 'light them up' as police doused in fuel after high-speed chase

Police officers were among eight splashed with petrol and cornered by a baying crowd on an estate in Basildon Essex

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A hostile crowd was heard shouting 'light them up' after several police officers were doused in petrol following a high-speed chase.  Eight officers were doused in fuel while making an arrest on an estate in Basildon, Essex.  Officers on duty in Canvey Island were monitoring an organised event when they were made aware of a motorbike being ridden dangerously in the incident last May.  They have relived the traumatic day the eight-mile pursuit with a police helicopter soaring overhead tracing the chase ended in a tense encounter as part of a documentary.  As Taser-wielding officers arrested the rider, the atmosphere on the estate turned hostile. Crowds of 20 to 30 people began to form, reports Essex Live. Officers at the scene were threatened with a hammer by a woman before a man came towards them and doused eight officers with petrol. Two officers were hospitalised after digesting the liquid and the fire service had to wash petrol out of their eyes. In the end, 90 officers swarmed the area to assist the officers already on scene.  PC Andrew Bird, PC Matthew Cutts and Chief Inspector Jonathan Baldwin were all at the scene and have spoken openly about the events that unfolded that day.  In a BBC documentary, Critical Incident, which aired Monday morning, the officers looked back on what happened on that fateful day.  PC Bird said he is used to people "shouting and swearing and telling us that we're idiots" but nothing could prepare him for the events that took place that day.

He said: "Out the corner of my eye I saw a gentleman appear from down one of the alleyways. He was just sprinting full speed towards where were."

He ran towards the man to try and intercept him but they collided and fell to the floor.  "I was pretty much at the bottom of the pile," PC Bird said. "You've got officers trying to get him off of me, he had his arms wrapped round my legs trying to keep hold of me.  It was as I was trying to control this gentleman who had run out of the middle of nowhere that this other chap has appeared with a watering can," PC Bird added.

PC Matthew Cutts then stepped in to fend off the new attacker.  PC Cutts didn't know what was in the watering can but his initial thoughts were that it could have been acid.  He said: "I could smell petrol so I sort of fumbled around to get my baton out but once I've got it I've put it behind my head and just struck him in line with my training.  It's not a random act of violence, it's a controlled measure that we are taught to use to get people away from us."

PC Cutts then started to feel his skin stinging and tingling down the front of his body where he had been covered in petrol.  Local residents offered assistance by way of water to rinse the petrol off their skin until the fire service arrived and hosed them down.  After being covered in petrol, officers at the scene were acutely aware that any spark could result in them going up in flames.  Chief Inspector Baldwin said: "One match, one lighter, one spark could result in us going up in flames and being disfigured for life or possibly even dead."

Officers at the scene could reportedly hear the crowd saying "who's got matches, who's got a lighter, let's set them on fire".

The team began to panic as people in the area were smoking and officers were armed with tasers which could have sparked and caused serious damage.  Chief Inspector Baldwin added: "I was hearing them shout 'light them up'.  I don't know how we didn't just cut and run but then that's not the way we're wired we all stuck together.  There's something running in the core of us that says you don't run away from the danger, you run towards it."

Backup arrived and several people were arrested.  A team of detectives including DC Natalie Backhouse immediately set to work building a case which saw three people brought before the courts in November last year.  Justin Jackson, 28, who threw the petrol over the officers, was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison.  A 17-year-old from Basildon was disqualified from driving for 12 months and fined at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court for driving a motor vehicle dangerously.  Janine Justin, 47, of, Basildon, was found guilty of possession of an offensive weapon at Basildon Crown Court. She was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months, fined £140 and was ordered to complete 200 hours unpaid work.  Shannon Jackson, 20, of Basildon, was charged with obstructing a constable in the execution of their duty. The case against Shannon Jackson was later dismissed.  A 30-year-old from Basildon was released without charge for assault by beating of an emergency worker.  A 17-year-old girl from Corringham was also released without charge for assisting an offender.  Reflecting on the incident, PC Cutts said: "It's an awful situation to be in but you've just got to put on a brave face and stay calm."

PC Bird added: "It's pretty much impossible to drive past it without thinking back to that day and remembering what happened.  You get flashbacks and just remember the things that people were saying and what could have quite easily happened."

Meanwhile, Chief Inspector Baldwin said: "On that day we had to learn what it was to be a victim and that experience has made us all the stronger when it now comes to identifying with other victims."

He added: "If it ever crosses anyone's mind to throw petrol over police officers or emergency workers in the future all I can say is pack your toothbrush when you go to court, because you'll be going to prison."

All eight officers were commended for their bravery by Her Honour Judge Samantha Cohen at Basildon Court.

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