PC Mel Earnshaw at Downing Street for the Bravery Awards

A Gloucestershire Police officer who was doused in fuel as she wrestled a cigarette lighter out of the hand of a suicidal woman who was threatening to set herself on fire has attended Downing Street for the #PoliceBravery Awards.

Photography by Jason Bye
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PC Mel Earnshaw, of the Incident Response Team, was alone when she was called to help a woman in crisis in Gloucester.

Mel said:

“It was my first day in a new patch. I turned up at the address and couldn’t locate her at first. After some enquiries I managed to locate her. She had been discharged from hospital that morning. She was suffering with mental health issues. I was trying to seek some help for her.

“Whilst doing so she went out into the garden to get a breath of fresh air, which I didn’t think anything of. Then she’d poured a can of lighter fluid out, barged me out of the way, and doused herself in in. Subsequently I got doused in it and some of the furnishings in the lounge.

“She then pulled out a lighter and attempted to set herself on fire. I was on my own, I had no choice to walk away. I had to stay and try and save her life. So I wrestled with her to try and get the lighter from her, and bring her to safety. And then she tried to barricade herself in her bedroom so again, I had to run after her and use myself as a bit of a doorstop to prevent her from causing any further injury to herself.”

Given a similar situation would Mel do the same again?

“Absolutely. It’s just part of the job,” she added. “I think at the time you don’t really realise the risks that you’re taking. You’re in a uniform, you know you’ve got a job to do and you just get on with it. It’s only on reflection, especially when you’re telling the family that you actually realise just what kind of risk you put yourself in.”

Mel concluded:

“I was absolutely thrilled to be nominated for the Awards. It’s just unbelievable. It’s a real career moment I can share with my family. I’m just so excited. It’s really good.”