A Gloucestershire Police officer who spent more than two hours trying to bring a suicidal woman to safety has been nominated for a national bravery award.

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

She received a call in July 2015 about a woman who was threatening to set herself on fire using lighter fuel.

On arrival at the woman’s house, it took PC Earnshaw some time to establish her whereabouts – as the woman had not answered the door and told her on the phone that she was walking the streets.

However, once inside it quickly emerged that the woman was very withdrawn and wanted to end her own life. She had discharged herself from hospital that morning and still had a cannula in her hand.

After a period of conversation, the woman pulled a can of lighter fluid from her pocket, ran past PC Earnshaw and barged her out of the way as she doused herself in the chemicals. The contents of the tin spread over herself, the sofa, the carpet and PC Earnshaw as she tried to grapple the lighter from her hand. Despite the woman’s greater stature, PC Earnshaw managed to eventually retrieve the lighter.

The woman then ran upstairs in an attempt to barricade herself into the bedroom but PC Earnshaw jammed herself in the doorway, preventing it from closing but causing bruising from the top of her shoulder down to her elbow. It was at that point that backup arrived and the woman was taken away under the Mental Health Act.

Sgt Paul Cruise said:

“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:

“I am so proud of PC Earnshaw. She put her own safety second that day and did all she could to save the vulnerable woman’s life. She ended up sore, bruised and traumatised by the incident, and her courage that day must be applauded.”

PC Earnshaw will attend a reception and an evening awards ceremony in London in July. The National Police Bravery Awards honour officers who have performed outstanding acts of bravery while on or off duty. The awards are sponsored by Police Mutual.