An inspector has shared the moment emergency services grasped the opportunity to save a terminally ill child after hours of negotiating with a man.
In a reveal-all interview, Inspector Paul Hennessy, who managed Nottinghamshire Police’s response to the incident, also described how he thought officers might witness the death of a child.
In February this year, police responded to a report of a dispute at a coffee shop in the Old Market Square in Nottingham city centre.
When officers arrived at the scene, a child with life-limiting medical issues had been taken hostage by a man.
Highly-trained police negotiators and response officers were immediately despatched to the scene while a large crowd gathered on a busy afternoon in the city centre.
Interviewed as part of a documentary released this weekend on Notts TV and YouTube, Inspector Hennessey has shared new details about what it was like to be at the scene, and the split-second decision that led to the safe recovery of the child.
He said: “I know I was not the only person who thought we were going to see a child die before our eyes.
“The man had a hold of the child and was holding several items that could be used as weapons to her head including a fork and a pencil.
“While a pencil might seem innocuous, when sharpened it could have caused serious damage to the incredibly vulnerable child.
“Negotiators worked tirelessly for six hours to talk to the man while response officers supported the child’s mother and managed a large scene around the Costa.
“It was an incredibly complicated situation and we knew that if we did not act, the child could have died.
“She’d had several fits in his arms and was clearly distressed but he would not let her go.”
A parent, Inspector Hennessy, knew the impact this situation had on the child’s mother.
He said: “The mother’s welfare was paramount during this situation and one of our PCs was with her the whole time while this unfolded.
“The tension in the room was palpable but I was confident that an opportunity would present itself and I’d told the team to be ready to take decisive action as soon as it did.
“The moment came nearly six hours into the standoff when the man dropped the sharpened pencil and reached to the floor to pick it up.
“We all looked at each other and knew this was the moment.”
A group of emergency workers including police and paramedics all took hold of the man, grabbing different parts of his body to prise his hands from the child whom he gripped tightly to his chest
Inspector Hennessy added: “Each officer had a hold of each of his limbs, another on grabbed a hold of his hair – he had long black greasy hair.
“Eventually, we were able to free the child and bring her to safety and arrest the man.”
Mohammed Othman, 35, was sentenced to an indefinite hospital order after pleading guilty to child cruelty in connection with the incident.
Inspector Hennessy, negotiators and response officers who attended the incident have all won the Casey Brittle Award as part of Nottinghamshire Police’s annual Force Awards.
The Casey Brittle Award is given to officers who show care and courage when responding to a domestic situation.
The award is named after Casey Brittle, a woman who was killed by her ex-partner in Nottinghamshire in 2010.
The award video is introduced by her mother, Victoria Blower.
Inspector Hennessy said: “We are all humbled to receive this award, the incident in question shows the often fraught and complicated nature of incidents response officers attend and deal with each day, making split second judgements to save lives but doing so with compassion and sensitivity, this was a real team effort from all the emergency services and colleagues from community protection, we are pleased our efforts have been recognised by this prestigious award in the memory of Casey Brittle.”
This year, the force created a documentary in place of the annual ceremony that is usually held at the Albert Hall in Nottingham city centre.
On Saturday 28 November, the full documentary will be broadcast on Notts TV at 9pm as well as the Nottinghamshire Police Facebook and YouTube channel at the same time.