A Gloucestershire police officer who stopped a woman from setting fire to herself on her first day in a new patch has been nominated for a national Police Bravery Award.

PC Melanie Earnshaw will be recognised at the 22nd Police Bravery Awards next month, at a fitting ceremony in London. The awards honour and recognise police officers who performed outstanding acts of bravery while on or off duty, hosted by the Police Federation of England and Wales, and sponsored by Police Mutual.

On the first day of significant force changes she was called to attend an incident in Gloucester, where she had never covered before – a female had called the suicide helpline.

When there was no answer at the address, PC Earnshaw continued to try and locate the woman, before eventually getting her to open the door and have a conversation.

The woman had discharged herself from hospital and seemed calm, if withdrawn, but then doused herself and PC Earnshaw in lighter fluid as the officer tried to wrestle it from her. The female then took a lighter and was about to ignite it, but despite being significantly smaller in stature, PC Earnshaw was able to retrieve the lighter from her.

The woman then attempted to barricade herself in her bedroom, but quick-thinking PC Earnshaw prevented that by using herself as a doorstop, causing bruising from the top of her shoulder down to her elbow.

The woman was later assessed under the mental health act and continues to suffer to this day while PC Earnshaw was extremely shaken by what had happened in an incident that totalled more than two and a half hours.

Afterwards, the officer said:

“I remember thinking this is the scariest scenario I have ever faced at work and couldn’t help but think of my little girl who was at home.”

Her line manager, Sgt Paul Cruise, added:

“PC Earnshaw, recognising the level of despondency exhibited by a very vulnerable female and realising that time was of the essence, bravely made the decision to engage with her prior to additional units arriving on the scene.

“PC Earnshaw acted courageously when she entered into a physical struggle to take the lighter fluid and lighter from the female, inadvertently contaminating herself with lighter fluid and placing her own welfare at considerable risk in a bid to safeguard that of the female.

“Bravery of this nature is exhibited by but a few and thoroughly deserves the highest level of recognition.”

Sarah Johnson, Chair of Gloucestershire Police Federation said:

“PC Earnshaw was thrown into a new territory, which in itself is challenging, never mind coming across an incident as severe as this. She dealt with a frightening and unpredictable situation and she should be commended for that – she is thoroughly deserving of this nomination.”

Stephen Mann, CEO of Police Mutual, said:

“Police Mutual is very proud to be supporting the Police Bravery Awards for the ninth consecutive year. I am always astounded by police officers’ acts of bravery and my colleagues and I continue to be inspired by their dedication. They are a true inspiration and I feel privileged and humbled to be part of the Awards again.”