Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Book Icon

Boro Hero John Welsh (November 2019)

A Middlesbrough Council worker has been hailed a hero after chasing a knife-wielding supermarket raider for over a mile.

Area Care Operative John Welsh's quick-thinking bravery was recognised this week with a Boro Hero award from Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston.

John leapt into action when he saw the man struggling with staff outside Morrisons at Berwick Hills on October 9, and feared for the safety of nearby schoolchildren.

The 37-year-old described seeing a 'commotion' before seeing light flashing off the blade of a large kitchen knife.

He said: "He was waving it about - there were some schoolkids with their parents nearby. I've jumped from the van and ran over to him and tried to get him to put the weapon down, but he tried to attack me."

With no thought for this own safety, John then gave chase, pursuing the knifeman through Berwick Hills, in and out of gardens, along Penrith Road, across Ormesby playing fields and finally onto Siddington Walk and Premier Road.

Throughout the ten-minute pursuit, John kept up a running commentary via a 999 call to Cleveland Police, updating them on the suspect's location, and dodging wild swipes of the blade as his quarry tried to fend him off with threats to kill.

John added: "At one point a lady came out of her house, but I told her to go back inside and lock her doors.

"He tried to hide in a garden, and when I tried to coax him out he got close and took another swipe at me.

"When I was joined by a police officer, I jumped over the wall and grabbed him by the legs and we both held him down until more officers arrived.

"I felt like I couldn't just leave it - he was totally erratic and a danger to the public, and someone could have been badly hurt that day."

Knifeman James Harrigan subsequently pleaded guilty to robbery, affray and possession of a weapon, and last month was jailed for six and a half years at Teesside Crown Court.

Presenting John with a Boro Hero Award, Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "In his pursuit of a highly dangerous offender, John showed remarkable bravery and tenacity that goes far beyond the call of duty.

"He had no thought for his own safety, but acted to protect others - the sentence handed down by the court shows just how dangerous this man was.

"John's a credit to the Council and the town, and he richly deserves this Boro Hero Award for showing 100% Middlesbrough bravery."

To nominate your Boro Hero, go to the Boro Hero Awards page. Nomination forms are also available at Community Hubs.

For more information, email borohero@middlesbrough.gov.uk