Madman at a teddy bears' picnic

'Dunblane will happen at any time again, unless decisive action is taken' - Colin Campbell QC at the Cullen inquiry yesterday. Minutes later, a machete attack began in a Wolverhampton school...

Peter Victor
Monday 08 July 1996 23:02

A man wielding a machete burst into an infants' school yesterday and ran amok, slashing at children and wounding a teacher and parents. The attacker climbed over a fence into St Luke's Church of England school in Blakenhall, Wolverhampton, West Midlands, and attacked adults and pupils as they were enjoying a picnic.

Police named a man they want to trace in connection with the attack as Horrett Irving Campbell, 32, known as "Izzy", of Villiers House, Blakenhall, a block of flats near the infants' school.

The incident - echoing the Dunblane tragedy four months ago - came within minutes of Colin Campbell, QC, telling the judicial inquiry into the massacre at the Scottish school that a similar attack "will happen again at any time unless decisive action is taken".

Mr Campbell was still on his feet addressing the inquiry as the attack began shortly after 3pm. Parents were waiting to collect their children and take them home. Several parents were helping teachers organise a teddy bears' picnic as part of end-of-term activities when the attacker scaled the school fence.

The injured children were named last night as Ahmed Malik, three, and four-year-olds Francesca Quintyne and Rhena Chopra. Also injured in the attack were Rhena's mother, Surinder Kaur, 29, Azar Rafiq, 29, Wendy Willington, 29, and nursery nurse Lisa Potts, 19.

One parent, Bala Bains, 28, said he tried to divert the attacker's attention as he lashed out with the machete.

Mr Bains, a courier, was waiting to collect his son Amar, six, and niece Kiran, five, from school when he saw a man loitering in nearby bushes. "I thought he was a litter collector," he said. "Then I saw him jump over the school wall and reach into his bag. He pulled out a huge machete. I didn't know what to do but I called police on my mobile phone. He just walked straight towards one of the mothers and slashed at her head. She didn't even see him coming. She just went down, I don't think she moved.

"The guy jumped over a little 2ft fence where the kids' play area is and just started hacking at anybody and everybody.

"I kept close to him and eventually got his attention by shouting, 'Come on, get me, you bastard'. He looked at me and moved towards me smiling. He tried to slash me with the knife but I jumped back and he missed. Then he just turned and walked away. He cut one more child before he finally left. He didn't even look as if he was panicking; he was very calm."

A spokesman for Wolverhampton's New Cross hospital said one of the injured women was in a serious condition and in the operating theatre. The three children had suffered lacerations to the head. The condition of all three was stable, and they were expected to undergo surgery.

Paul Shields, chief executive at New Cross Hospital, said: "The patients have some nasty injuries but their condition is not life-threatening. One of the adults and one of the children are in a serious condition.

"One child has facial injuries and another sustained injuries to the head. The rest had injuries on their legs and arms."

The attack ended when a parent chased a man from the school towards Villiers House, a nearby block of flats. Police surrounded the block and cordoned off the area. Officers with riot gear and a trained negotiator waited for nearly two hours before taking away a man. But Superintendent Pat Wing, of West Midlands police, said later: "Nobody has yet been arrested. We are still searching the locality."

Parents from Dunblane, where gunman Thomas Hamilton murdered a teacher and 16 children before killing himself, were stunned by news of the attack. Their feelings were summed up by a local councillor, Arthur Ironside, who said: "We are all sickened by this atrocity. No one can understand how anyone can hurt little children.

"Our own tragedy happened just four months ago. Now every parent involved will be reliving the hell of that day and the weeks that followed."

Wolverhampton's chair of education, Bob Jones, said security at St Luke's was up to date following the Dunblane tragedy. The school was surrounded by a fence, thought to be at least 6ft tall, and there were bolts and locks on all the gates and doors.

Last night it emerged St Luke's might not re-open this term. Wolverhampton council said the school would " remain closed until further notice". It was due to break up on 19 July.

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