‘I opened the door and there was a big explosion. I felt like I’d been hit with a sledgehammer’

Graham Saunders and his radio which saved his life,after being bit by a shotgun blast
Graham Saunders and his radio which saved his life,after being bit by a shotgun blast
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HAD it not been for the bulky radio handsets bobbies carried back in the 1990s Graham Saunders would be dead.

He was shot in the chest at point blank range by a maniac in Sheffield city centre with a gun.

But miraculously his radio, which was covering his heart, took the brunt of the impact and the bullet missed any vital organs.

In a second stroke of luck, crazed Anthony Caruana’s sawn-off shotgun then misfired when he held it to Graham’s head and pulled the trigger.

Graham, recently retired from the force, relived the horrific events of that night in 1993 after being presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his services to South Yorkshire Police.

Eighteen years ago, he was a 34-year-old city centre bobby patrolling the streets in a panda car when two colleagues around the corner in Leopold Street called for help after stopping a man and being told he had a gun.

Just as Graham pulled up the gunman jumped in front of his car, walked round to his side and opened fire.

When the first shot ricocheted off his radio, Graham then found himself face-to-face with the barrel of the shotgun and heard the trigger being pulled back again and again as the weapon repeatedly misfired.

It gave him and his colleague just enough time to scramble out of their car and alert other bobbies.

Graham and his colleagues then began attempting to clear the area, busy with revellers on a night out, but the gunman ran off and into the path of a group of men on a stag do outside Josephine’s nightclub.

As panic began to mount as news of the gunman spread, heroic Shaun Hadley, 23, of Holmley Lane, Dronfield, tried to disarm Caruana by knocking him to the ground and jumping on him. He paid for his bravery with his life when he was shot dead. The judge in the subsequent court case said Shaun showed the bravery of a ‘war hero’.

Graham said he still has vivid memories of the night but if his memory ever does begin to fade his colleagues mounted his damaged radio onto a plaque for him in recognition of what he endured that night.

“When I was shot in 1993 a shooting or a robbery where a gun was produced would happen just once a year and would be very big news,” said Graham, promoted to sergeant during his career before he retired last year.

“I can remember the night clearly – we pulled up and Caruana was standing in front of our car. He walked round to my side and as I was trying to take my seatbelt off and open the door there was a big explosion.

“I thought I had been shot but didn’t know where. I felt like I had been hit with a sledge hammer. The doctor who examined me afterwards said I was lucky my heart hadn’t stopped.

“He had a sawn-off double- barrelled shotgun pointing at me and after realising that I wasn’t dead he held the gun to my head saying he was going to kill me. I thought I had had it and thought I had already been shot and this was to simply finish me off.

“I heard the sound of him pulling the trigger and prepared myself but the gun didn’t fire. He did this three times and it was then that I realised I had a chance and backed out of the car through the driver’s door.

“Because I came out backwards and people had heard the shot they thought I was dead but I went into autopilot and got up and began trying to clear the area so that nobody else would get hurt. I then tried to radio for help but cut my hand on the handset and that’s when I saw that it was damaged and realised that’s where I had been hit – I will never ever be as lucky again.”

Chf Supt Simon Torr, responsible for the policing of Sheffield, said in his citation when Graham was presented with his Lifetime Achievement Award: “We often say that you should never leave the station without your radio because it could be a lifesaver, well in this instance it most certainly was.”