Petrol attack: Crowd shouted ‘set them on fire’ as eight police officers doused in fuel

·3-min read
A still from video footage of the incident shows police ducking as Justin Jackson throws petrol at them out of a red watering can  (Facebook/ITV Anglia)
A still from video footage of the incident shows police ducking as Justin Jackson throws petrol at them out of a red watering can (Facebook/ITV Anglia)

Residents of a housing estate in Essex could be heard chanting “light them up” after several police officers had petrol thrown on them while making an arrest last year.

A new BBC docuseries details the attack, which took place on 5 May 2019 in Canvey Island, Essex, after police were involved in a high-speed chase involving a motorcyclist.

Following an eight-mile pursuit, including being traced by a police helicopter, the rider was cornered by police on Ward Close, in Basildon, and was subsequently arrested.

Shortly after the arrest was made, crowds of 20 to 30 people started to gather around the motorbike rider.

The officers present were threatened by a woman holding a hammer and physically attacked by one man, before another man came towards them carrying a watering can filled with petrol and doused it over eight officers he got close to.

As a result, two officers were hospitalised after digesting the liquid and the fire service had to wash petrol out of their eyes.

After backup was called, around 90 further officers swarmed the area to assist their at-risk colleagues.

A man known locally as Justin Jackson was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison for eight counts of administering a noxious substance with intent to injure, aggrieve or annoy.

A separate Basildon teenager, who had been riding the motorbike, was disqualified from driving for 12 months and fined at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on 16 August for driving a motor vehicle dangerously.

In the programme, which aired on BBC1, PC Andrew Bird, PC Matthew Cutts and chief inspector Jonathan Baldwin - who were all at the scene of the crime - spoke about what they could remember.

PC Bird said he recalled colliding with a “gentleman man who came running at us from one of the alleyways” before ending up on the floor with the man clinging onto him.

“I was at the bottom of the pile,” he said. “You’ve got officers trying to get him off me but he had his arms wrapped around my legs - he was trying to keep hold of me.”

PC Cutts, who spoke about the moment he and his fellow officers were covered in petrol, said his initial thoughts were that it was an acid attack.

He said: “I began to smell petrol so I fumbled around to get my baton out and once I got it, I put it behind my head and struck [Jackson] - in line with my training.”

Defending the move, PC Cutts added: “It’s not a random act of violence, it’s a controlled measure that we are taught to get people away from us.”

Meanwhile CI Baldwin recalled how close the officers came to being set alight.

“One match, one lighter, one spark could result in us going up in flames and being disfigured for life or possibly being killed,” he said.

He said officers at the scene could reportedly hear the crowd saying: “Who’s got a matches? Who’s got a lighter? Let’s set them on fire.”

CI Baldwin added: “I could hear them shouting: ‘Light them up’.”

Eventually, backup arrived and several people were arrested - most have since been charged and sentenced.

All eight officers were commended for their bravery by Judge Samantha Cohen at Basildon Court.

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