Hero cops tackle knifeman trying to burn down Sheffield pizza shop

Heroic police officers tackled a knifeman trying to burn down a Sheffield pizza shop with staff inside.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 13th June 2016, 6:52 am
Updated Monday, 13th June 2016, 11:24 am
The Pizza Central on Halifax Road in Sheffield where former Army recruit Damien Walker threatened staff with a knife and then tried to burn down the property
The Pizza Central on Halifax Road in Sheffield where former Army recruit Damien Walker threatened staff with a knife and then tried to burn down the property

PC Daniel Goodinson was injured as he restrained former Army recruit Damien Walker at the Pizza Central takeaway on Halifax Road on April 9.

PC Goodinson and colleague PC Dave Culshaw ran into the shop to tackle Walker despite fearing the place there could be an explosion after petrol had been poured all over the premises and set alight.

Damien Walker

Judge Peter Kelson QC praised the ‘enormous courage in a terrifying situation’ shown by the officers as he jailed Walker for four years at Sheffield Crown Court.

The court heard how Walker, who had found out his partner who worked at the shop was having an affair with a delivery driver, had threatened other employees with a knife before returning with petrol and starting a fire in the shop.

Susan Evans, prosecuting, said Walker, aged 30 and of Remington Road, Parson Cross, had gone into the shop around 4pm with the intention of confronting the man he believed to be having an affair with his partner.

When he was told he wasn’t working, Walker leant over the counter and the grabbed the arm of a male worker before swinging the knife at him.

Damien Walker

He then stabbed the knife into the counter four or five times before shouting ‘He has ruined my life, I’m going to kill you, I’m going to burn the shop’.

He then threatened a female worker with the knife to get the driver’s phone number and left the shop - going on to send a series of threatening text messages to his love rival’s phone.

Walker left the shop to buy a petrol canister and fuel and returned to the shop, where he poured the petrol on to a bench for customers inside the takeaway.

He was barring the door so police who had been called to the scene initially couldn’t get inside as he made attempts to start the fire with his lighter.

Walker did manage to spark the lighter and set the bench alight - before being tackled by PC Goodinson.

Ms Evans said: “The PC grabbed the knife from the defendant, cutting himself in the struggle. As he managed to disarm the defendant, shop staff bravely extinguished the flames.”

PC Goodinson said there had been four or five members of staff in the shop when they arrived at the scene.

“He was inside the shop and had poured petrol over the floor and a side bench. He had a lighter in one hand and a knife in the other.

“Because it was a confined space, we couldn’t really get in,” he said.

“The door was slightly ajar and I think that was the key to the whole place not going up.”

He added: “We carry Taser and get training on petrol fumes in tight spaces. What was going through our minds was - ‘Oh my God, this is potentially going to go up’. We were trying to do everything we could to try and reason with him.”

He said despite their best efforts to talk him out of it, Walker set the bench alight.

“We were concerned the petrol was on him and on the floor, it looked like it was ready to go.

“We forced the door open and he went towards the staff members. I managed to get the knife out of his hands and we dragged him out the shop.”

He said while they were struggling with Walker, a member of staff bravely put the flames out.

“The fire had engulfed the bench but luckily - and I still don’t know how - he didn’t set on fire and the floor didn’t either.

“It is not so much the fuel, it is the fumes that are dangerous.

“When he did manage to ignite the bench, it was just a case of ‘we have got no choice, we have got to go in or somebody will get seriously hurt or worse’.”

In court, Richard Adams, defending Walker, said the incident was entirely out-of-character for his ‘timid, quiet and hard-working’ client, who regretted his actions.

He said his client had suffered with depression and anxiety before making the ‘mistake’ of joining the Army and later being discharged on medical grounds.

Mr Adams said Walker had not been taking his medication and had been drinking with his brother on the day of the incident, while he had been involved in a difficult relationship for five years.

“It was a fatal cocktail of anxiety, depression, lack of medication, drink and these bottled-up emotions. Finally they exploded in the drama that unfolded,” he said.

Mr Adams said Walker had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and was unlikely to reoffend.

Judge Kelson sentenced Walker to four years in jail for making threats with a knife, arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered and putting a person in fear of violence.

He also placed a restraining order on Walker banning him from going within 100 yards of Pizza Central for ten years.

He told Walker: “Your conduct that day in that shop was totally appalling.”

Judge Kelson said Walker had made ‘blood-curdling threats’ towards staff before setting the shop alight.

He said: “The courage and quick-thinking of the worker in the shop and the police saved the day.

“Thankfully, minimal damage was caused.”

Judge Kelson said he agreed with defence submissions that Walker’s actions had been ‘totally out of character’.

He said the offending was aggravated as the majority of it was directed towards people who had nothing to do with his relationship problems.

PC Goodinson, who is 32 and has been a police officer for 11 years, said he was pleased but surprised they had been singled out for praise by the judge in the case.

“It is lovely, we don’t normally get things like that.

“But it is just by chance me and Dave were first there. Had it been any of my colleagues, they would have done exactly the same.

“It is what we do, day in and day out - this was just a bit more extreme than usual.”