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PC risks life stopping woman setting fire to herself

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Officer nominated for Police Bravery Award after apprehending suicidal woman doused in lighter fluid.

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PC Melanie Earnshaw.

A Gloucestershire constable who stopped a woman from setting fire to herself on her first day in a new patch has been nominated for a national Police Bravery Award.

On her first day she was called to attend an incident in Gloucester – a female had called the suicide helpline.

When there was no answer at the address, PC Melanie Earnshaw continued to try and find the woman, before eventually getting her to open the door and talk to her.

The woman had discharged herself from hospital and seemed calm, but suddenly then doused herself and PC Earnshaw in lighter fluid as the officer tried to wrestle it from her.

The female then took a lighter and was about to ignite it, but despite being significantly smaller in stature, PC Earnshaw was able to grab the lighter from her.

The woman then attempted to barricade herself in her bedroom, but quick-thinking PC Earnshaw prevented that by using herself as a doorstop, causing bruising from the top of her shoulder down to her elbow.

The woman was later assessed under the mental health act.

PC Earnshaw was extremely shaken by what had happened in the two-hour long ordeal.

She said afterwards: “I remember thinking this is the scariest scenario I have ever faced at work and couldn’t help but think of my little girl who was at home.”

Her line manager, Sgt Paul Cruise, added: “PC Earnshaw, recognising the level of despondency exhibited by a very vulnerable female and realising that time was of the essence, bravely made the decision to engage with her prior to additional units arriving on the scene.

“PC Earnshaw acted courageously when she entered into a physical struggle to take the lighter fluid and lighter from the female, inadvertently contaminating herself with lighter fluid and placing her own welfare at considerable risk in a bid to safeguard that of the female.

“Bravery of this nature is exhibited by but a few and thoroughly deserves the highest level of recognition."

Sarah Johnson, chair of Gloucestershire Police Federation, said: “PC Earnshaw was thrown into a new territory, which in itself is challenging, never mind coming across an incident as severe as this. She dealt with a frightening and unpredictable situation and she should be commended for that – she is thoroughly deserving of this nomination.”

View on Police Oracle

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