Suicide in Milford 1989

1989, 30 May: A man bailed by a Judge on a charge of attempted murder of his wife returned to the village of Milford after placing an explosive device on his wife's car at Milford railway station. Evacuation, diversions, train cancellations took place as specialist police officers, negotiators, Firearms Support Team and the Army bomb disposal officers were deployed.

The house became a siege when it became apparent that the man was intent on killing himself and so the standoff was foreshortened as the Firearms Support Team made an entry. They were unable to reach the man before he plunged a kitchen knife into his stomach dying some hours later. A Coroner's inquest and a full enquiry by the Hampshire Police said that the officer's actions "were well thought out, decisive and correct."272

Another dangerous job for the Firearms Support Team, which this time ending in tragedy, occurred in Milford one early evening when a man barricaded himself in his house after setting up a supposed car as a bomb at the local railway station. Inside the house he had wired up the electricity so that he could commit suicide by jumping in the bath.

Negotiations went on for some time, until it was decided by Superintendent Dave Stevens, the local sub-divisional commander and a cadre member that an entry had to be made to try and save the man's life. The semi-detached house was a not very large one set on a small estate. Stun grenades were used in the house, and the staircase was rushed to try and prevent the man killing himself, but without success as he beat the police by stabbing himself.

There was the inevitable enquiry by the Hampshire Police, but they found no cause for criticism. The stun grenades blew the stairs away from the wall, and as usual so not unexpectedly started a small fire. One police officer from the Firearms Support Team was hurt by the exploding whiz-bangs as he was moving so quickly he was on top of the thing as it went off, and after a visit to hospital and a short time off sick, he was operational again.

Malcolm Sutton ex-Firearms Support Team: It was me that was injured at the siege. Do not forget there were two incidents running in tandem. The first was a suspected car bomb at Milford railway station. Given the threat at the time this was obviously very serious. Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) were called, undertook a controlled explosion and found it was not a bomb. The car went down to the owner's husband in Milford.

Our pagers summoned the team and we headed for the rendezvous point (RVP) at Godalming police station where we kitted up and were briefed by Chief Superintendent James. We then went to Swallow Close at Milford with Alan McArthur as the Boss. A negotiator was on-site and I believe he was up a ladder at the rear of the house talking to the man who was armed with a fourteen inch knife.

The doors and windows had been wired up. The gas and electric were turned off.

I worked with Peter Moore, Pat Martin, Neil Fisher, Andy Remnant, and Brent Ashworth. I think the besieged man was McGill and he had a row with his wife and she announced she was leaving. The negotiator continued talking but there was a long silence and it was decided we should go in to save life.

We took out the back door and I went in with Peter Moore. He had a single shot stun grenade and I had a multiple bang. It was a small town house. Peter started to go up the stairs towards the man and threw his stun grenade. The plan was that I would then throw mine on the landing to cut him off from a bedroom.

Peter's grenade went off but the casing flew at me and hit me on the head so much so I was no longer fully operational but I had in my hand a whiz bang with the pin pulled. I was with it enough to know it had to go, and by this time other team members had passed me going up the stairs. I had been hit above the eye and was bleeding profusely.

I threw the grenade under the stairs and wallop it went off with the seven bangs and seven flashes and blew the stairs away from the wall, and started a fire. I was still with it to help get the man out of the back door – he had stabbed himself but had to be moved because of the fire. An ambulance was there but he died. I went to hospital.

Keith Rogers: I was the duty inspector at the scene prior to everyone else arriving. I managed the initial cordon with two or three PCs and ran the forward control point until others arrived. Superintendent Graham Powell was the negotiator at the scene for some hours; Inspector Alan McArthur ran the Firearms Support Team along with Pete Moore, et al.

Chief Superintendent Mick James was Gold and Mr Stevens took over Silver when he arrived. For reasons that I was not privy to it was ultimately decided to force an entry using the Firearms Support Team (and stun grenades, etc). As I recall from viewing the scene afterwards the staircase actually collapsed. I may be wrong, because I did not see the victim when he left, but I always understood that he stabbed himself in the chest, causing a fatal wound.

Nick Brent: I was a Superintendent on 'Complaints and Discipline' at the time. Another force investigated the incident and I had to then do a review of the procedures following their report for DCC Williams. The person in charge of Godalming and therefore in overall charge of the incident was Chief Superintendent Mick James. The Negotiator was Superintendent Graham Powell and the officer in charge of the Firearms Support Team was Acting Sergeant Peter Moore.

Mick Case: I dealt with the original domestic assault (detective inspector Godalming). Steve Potts and Roger Church will tidy up some of the detail. This relates to a man I charged with attempted murder of his wife (French seventeen years his junior) who he suspected was having an affair. After half a bottle of wine (he did not usually drink) he tried to strangle his wife.

Steve Potts and I attended the house after wife had been taken to the Royal Surrey County Hospital (RSCH). The hospital refused to confirm that she had been assaulted (confidentiality!). We arrested the husband at home although he tried to run off with no shoes on; we ran alongside (Potts was faster) I supervised. At the time he admitted in tears that he had 'killed his wife' and he was arrested. I opposed bail on the grounds that I thought he would kill himself. He was remanded in custody.

A week later whilst I was in Scotland (Outer Hebrides on the Isle of Lewis) on another enquiry I spotted an article in a local daily paper about the main Portsmouth railway line being closed due to a suspected bomb at Milford station, linked to a local man committing suicide? On phoning the police station it appears that he was granted bail in my absence as his lawyer brother stated to the court that he would look after him and he would not return to the marital home.

Roger Church and Steve Potts dealt with this in my absence from memory the deceased on returning to his home address at Milford phoned the police station to speak to me and was told I was away. He apparently wanted me to go to his home with his wife to witness his death. Either way he stated he had left a bomb in his wife's car at Milford station (this I was told led to bomb disposal blowing the door off) and the press article stating that ten thousand rail passengers were delayed on route home.

At the home address he apparently wired up the bath with a fire and clutching a carving knife threatened from the bedroom window to Roger that he would kill himself if Mr Case would not come. I was told the firearm's team threw a newly acquired bit of kit a 'stun grenade' into the premises which promptly set fire to the stairs. The man then buried his knife in chest and jumps in the bath throwing a switch. Exit house on stretcher knife in place Dead-on-Arrival (DOA) at the RSCH.

Nigel Lee: I was the Operations Room supervisor for the 1988 Milford suicide job. On the day of this incident I was the late turn sergeant supervisor in the Ops Room at HQ; this was not long after the inspectors had been removed from each rota leaving a sergeant responsible for the county.

I took a 999 call from a male who initially asked to speak with Mick Case but when I advised him this would be difficult due to not knowing his location he then asked me to pass a message. He told me his name, address and then went on to give very precise details about a case Mick was dealing with.

I can remember him saying that he was on bail and meant to be residing at an address in Bishops Auckland but had returned that day to Milford and was intending to commit suicide within the premises. We used to take a lot of strange calls in the Operations Room but something about this one made me think he meant what he said and I wrote the entire call down on the C2 log before calling for complete silence within the room and making all the operators aware of this specific incident.

 

Needless to say the next few hours were very busy and when we went off shift at 2300 hours this individual was dead. Just to add to the occasion I also had another serious incident running that evening (can't remember what this was) and by the time I went home felt I had earned my pay.

As with most major events we seemed to have many unconnected visitors to the Operations Room that evening just to see what was going on, I can remember throwing some out including quite a few senior officers! The following morning I found out the incident had escalated when the police gained entry and the male in question had jumped in the bath together with the electric fire.

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272 Annual Report 1989.

 

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