Stabbed British policeman Michael Swindells sacrificed his life to save passers-by from a maniac knifeman, his Chief Constable said today.
Despite being unarmed and unprotected, Detective Constable Swindells gave little thought for his own safety as he chased the suspect on foot in Birmingham.
The 44-year-old married father of one child died after being stabbed once in the abdomen.
Today, Chief Constable Paul Scott-Lee insisted that Det Con Swindells “did the right thing” despite not wearing an anti-stab vest, which are standard issue among all frontline uniformed officers.
Meanwhile, other colleagues said they were not surprised at his actions because of his professionalism.
Mr Scott-Lee said: “Let me make it clear: there was a man who was running through the streets of Birmingham having already threatened in a very aggressive way members of the public.
“The first duty of the police and police officers is to preserve the life of the public and I think it is fair to say that on this occasion, he did that.”
He said the safety of officers was reviewed on an “almost daily basis” and would be examined again in the wake of the tragedy to see “whether or not we need to change our approach.”
The police chief said both colleagues and the community remained “numb” over the death of the former Royal Engineers lance corporal, who was originally from Hyde, Greater Manchester.
“The events of yesterday highlighted the dangers that police officers put themselves in on a daily basis to protect members of the public,” Mr Scott-Lee added.
Mr Scott-Lee spoke as Mr Swindells’ widow, Carol, and their 19-year-old daughter, Kelly, tried to come to terms with their loss.
A 48-year-old man was subsequently arrested after West Midlands Police marksmen shot him with baton rounds.
He was being questioned today on suspicion of murder, with officers later due to review his 24-hour custody time limit.
Tributes to the dead officer have poured into the force, including one from British Home Secretary David Blunkett and Home Office Minister Hazel Blears.
The tragedy unfolded yesterday morning when two uniformed officers wearing body armour were sent from Mr Swindells’ base at Queens Road station to an address in the Nechells area of the city in response to two separate calls from the public reporting that a man was on the loose wielding a knife.
As the two officers attempted to speak to the occupants, they were approached by a man in the street carrying a bag, whose behaviour concerned the officers and they challenged him.
A lengthy chase ensued which led to other officers – including Mr Swindells - responding to the “escalating” situation.
Mr Swindells pursued the knifeman along a narrow path where he was stabbed once in the abdomen.
Colleagues rushed to his aid as others continued the chase and an armed response unit brought the suspect down.
Police have declined to discuss the exact location of the events, but today a run-down semi-detached house in Long Acre, Nechells, remained sealed off along with a small recreation area on the corner of the road’s junction with Eliot Street.
Police also stood guard near a section of canal towpath a few hundred yards away, near Spaghetti Junction on the M6.
Det Chief Supt Tom Duffin, Mr Swindells’ commanding officer, paid his own tribute, telling reporters: “His colleagues were not surprised that he responded to this incident in the way he did.
“It was in keeping with his professionalism.”
Mr Duffin described the Manchester United fan, known as Mick, as a “warm, charismatic, hardworking and highly professional officer” who “spoke his mind.”
According to the Army, the detective who joined the force in 1990 – was valued as a calming influence on junior officers, setting an example to them and peers with his high standards.
Referring to Aston Villa’s ground, which lies a short distance from Queens Road, Mr Duffin said: “He worked in an office less than a quarter of a mile from another Premiership club which sometimes brought a bit of amusement to officers.”
Mr Duffin revealed that on Mr Swindells’ application form to join the force he was asked why he wanted to become a policeman and wrote: “To uphold the country’s law and play my part in making this country safe for everyone.”
Detectives are continuing to appeal for witnesses to the stabbing.