British officer knifed to death despite wearing 'stab-proof' armor

David Byers and agencies,
The Times Online

Luton, U.K. A police officer was stabbed to death in the middle of a busy town centre today after coming to the aid of a window cleaner who had been attacked and knifed during morning rush hour.

PC Jonathan Henry, a married father whose daughter is less than one year old, was knifed outside Marks and Spencer in the middle of Luton, and only yards from the town's main police station and town hall just before 7:20am.

The 36-year-old, who had been a police officer for three years and whose shift had started only 20 minutes before, died despite wearing a stab proof vest. It was not clear how the knife had penetrated his body-armour.

A third man was also stabbed after intervening in the incident, before police used Taser stun-guns to trap the knifeman.

At a press conference held by Bedfordshire Police in the city this afternoon Gillian Parker, the force's Chief Constable, said: "It is with deep regret that I have to inform you of the death of PC Jonathan Charles Henry.

"John was 36 years old, and had been with Bedfordshire Police since March 2004. He leaves behind a wife Mary, and a baby daughter Maggie.

"John loved his job, and was a dedicated member of the police service. He was on duty in Luton town centre when he was called to deal with a man in possession of a knife.

"Like any other day, he was responding to a call for help from a member of the public. His dedication to his duty cost him his life, and leaves Bedfordshire Police sad at his death, but as proud that he is one of us."

Detective Superintendent Garwood added that the PC's family were devastated, and wanted to be left alone to grieve.

“The family are very traumatised by this and are understandably upset and angry," he said.

"This man came to work and they were expecting him home this afternoon and he is not going to be there.”

After the man was subdued, the police officer and the two other stab victims were rushed to Luton and Dunstable Hospital.
After the knifeman was subdued, the police officer and the two other stab victims were rushed by ambulance to Luton and Dunstable Hospital.

One of the victims, aged 55 and believed to be a window cleaner, was said to be in a serious but stable condition after reportedly being stabbed in the neck, the other man was less seriously injured.

PC Henry was pronounced dead soon after arriving at hospital. Police said a man had been arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder.

Detective Superintendent Garwood said the officer had attended the initial stabbing incident in a marked police car, and was with a number of colleagues when he was attacked.

"The town centre was cordoned off early this morning and they were stopping people coming into George Street."

Today, scores of police officers had closed off large sections of Luton town centre close to the town hall and war memorial, while on the street where the three men were stabbed a baton and a Taser cartridge could be seen.

John Reid, the Home Secretary, sent his condolences to PC Henry’s friends, family, and colleagues during the fortnightly Home Office Questions session in the House of Commons.

"I am deeply saddened to report the death to the House today of PC Jonathan Henry while on duty in Luton with Bedfordshire Police," he said.

"Tragic events like this death highlight the dangers that police officers face day-to-day in their task of protecting the public."

A total of 36 police officers have been murdered in the line of duty in England, Scotland and Wales in the last two decades.

The most recent was Constable Richard Gray, a 43-year-old armed response officer, who died on Sunday, May 6, as he attempted to rescue two officers held at gunpoint after a domestic incident in Shrewsbury.

In 2005 PC Joe Carroll, 46, of Northumbria Police, was killed after a man he was taking to a police station caused the car, in which they were travelling to crash by grabbing the handbrake.

Also in that year, PC Sharon Beshenivsky was shot dead as she attended a robbery scene in broad daylight in Bradford city centre.

The last officer to be stabbed to death was Detective Constable Michael Swindells, of Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire. He died after being knifed in the heart by a paranoid schizophrenic on a canal towpath in the Nechells area of Birmingham in May 2004.

Two years beforehand, PC Ian Broadhurst died after being shot when he stopped a motorist in Leeds on Boxing Day. In the same year, PC Stephen Oake was stabbed to death during an anti-terror raid at Manchester.

PC Malcolm Walker was killed after being rammed off his police motorbike in Birmingham in 2001.

Copyright 2007 Times Newspapers Ltd

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