Man arrested over school machete attack

Crowd watches police escort draped figure from flats

Rebecca Fowler
Tuesday 09 July 1996 23:02
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A crowd gathered outside Villiers House in Wolverhampton last night as a man was arrested in connection with the machete attack on a picnic at a near- by infants' school on Monday afternoon.

Parents and neighbours watched more than 30 police in full riot gear emerge from the tower block in Blakenhall shortly after 7.30pm with a man draped in a blue blanket.

For locals who live near St Luke's infants school, where three children and four adults suffered serious wounds, it was at least a sign that the investigation was moving. Their frustration had mounted as they watched earlier police searches over the last two days of the same building for a man named as Horrett Irving Campbell, 32, who detectives were seeking in connection with the inquiry.

Darren Bird, 25, an unemployed resident of the flats, said: "People will just be relieved they've finally brought someone out. They've been searching all this time, and I'm just glad something has happened."

According to the residents the man was found by police dog handlers on the ninth floor of the block. Police said that a knife and a screwdriver were recovered from the scene.

Daljinder Singh, 20, a machine operator, said: "People are very angry about what has happened, and there was a chance they would have taken matters into their own hands if they had not seen any developments."

Police had twice earlier searched the block - for several hours on Monday night and again for five hours yesterday. Detectives had issued an alert over Mr Campbell, 32, after a man was seen to go into Villiers House after the machete attack.

Three children were last night still in hospital with serious injuries. Rhena Chopra and Francesca Quintyne, both four, had deep cuts to their faces and one also had surgery for a broken jaw and severed ear. Ahmed Pervez, three, was transferred to Birmingham children's hospital with serious head and thigh wounds. The four adults who also received lacerations in the attack were detained in hospital in a stable condition.

St Luke's school stood silent all yesterday and the gates remained locked. Parents were keeping their children indoors. Lynda Westwood, whose granddaughter and niece attend the school, said: "We're shocked, and we're angry ... The sight of those children yesterday will haunt me for a long time."

The attacker climbed over a school wall on Monday afternoon and attacked the children and adults who had been invited to St Luke's for a picnic to prepare the three- and four-year-olds for their first school term in September.

Lisa Potts, 21, a nursery nurse, was injured when she tried to defend the children. From hospital yesterday she described her horror as she saw the intruder. "There was a lot of screaming - and a man came lunging towards me, but he was laughing."

She added: "I grabbed a child under each arm and ran back towards the nursery, but he pulled me back and hit me on the back of the head."

Roy Lockwood, director of education, said that security measures at the school were "comparable with those in the vast majority of schools nationally. To make changes would be a question of moving security in all schools up a whole different level".

Denise Bennett, the school's headteacher, yesterday paid a tearful tribute to those at the picnic. "The speed and control with which my staff acted, together with parents, certainly saved many lives. It was an horrendous scene, the likes of which I hope I will never see again."

Robert Ellis, spokesman for the Lichfield diocese, said a special meeting of St Luke's governors last night had decided that the school would reopen on Monday morning.

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