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Plain-clothed officer repeatedly punched in the head during police chase

PUBLISHED: 08:45 23 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:53 23 August 2018

Injuries to PC Laura Hammerton in an assault off Old Palace Road. Picture: Norfolk Police

Injuries to PC Laura Hammerton in an assault off Old Palace Road. Picture: Norfolk Police

Archant

A London drug dealer repeatedly punched a plain-clothed Norwich police officer to the head as she tackled him to the ground after a foot chase in the city.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, August 15, PC Laura Hammerton was patrolling the Old Palace Road area in plain clothes when she saw a suspected drug deal take place at Watson Grove.

But when she went to make an arrest, the suspect led her on a chase, forcing her to abandon her police bicycle which was then stolen by a member of the public.

PC Hammerton said the suspect eventually stopped around Clifton Close, and she went to arrest him again.

“He tried to get past me and I managed to take him to the ground,” she said. “While cushioning myself he fell on top of me so my head hit the floor.

PC Laura Hammerton speaking to crime correspondent Dominic Gilbert after the assault. Picture: Victoria PertusaPC Laura Hammerton speaking to crime correspondent Dominic Gilbert after the assault. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

“I just tried to hold onto him and he repeatedly punched me in the head multiple times, even though I was shouting ‘police, stop’.

“From what I remember he stopped at one point, lifted his hand up and said, ‘let me go or I will f***ing smack you”. He had so much aggression in his face.

“I was trying to hold on to him, because I had advised control where I was and they would be sending units, so I held on as long as I could.”

Before other officers could arrive a member of the public intervened and dragged the attacker to the ground.

Injuries to PC Laura Hammerton in an assault off Old Palace Road. Picture: Norfolk PoliceInjuries to PC Laura Hammerton in an assault off Old Palace Road. Picture: Norfolk Police

“I managed to get the handcuffs on and arrest him,” added PC Hammerton. “That was when I realised there was blood on the floor, and it was coming from me.

“It felt like ages, but it was probably no more than one minute.”

PC Hammerton thinks she was punched eight to 11 times, to the head, jaw and cheekbone. Despite bleeding she walked a drugs dog back through the route of the chase before going to A&E for a six hour wait to get stitches.

She has been off work since the incident, which she says is the most severe attack she has faced.

Clifton Close ,Norwich. Photo: Nick ButcherClifton Close ,Norwich. Photo: Nick Butcher

“I have been assaulted before but not to that degree,” she said. “Drug charges often carry custodial sentences, and a big part of it is they do not want to get caught, because if you take the drugs off them they will have some retribution further up the chain.

“It’s a double edged sword for them. It is a different world to what we live in.”

She added her family “understand the risks of the job”, and “their anger is towards him and his actions”.

Public intervention

A nearby resident who heard the commotion ran outside to help PC Hammerton, and pinned the suspect to the ground.

Alenas Kvasninas, 36, was at home when he said he heard “a woman calling for help outside”.

“I just ran out and there was struggle,” he said. “There was a woman there in a struggle with a man.

“When I first saw that she was in civilian clothing, I just thought it was a family struggle. But then I saw the lady had handcuffs on her and there was a radio nearby.

“I just helped with holding him down. She was beaten badly and she had a wound to her head. I just wanted to give her a hand.

“I got involved because this guy was beating her. When I got there it wasn’t hard to guess she was a police officer.

“To be honest it just seemed like the normal thing to do.”

PC Hammerton added: “It is very reassuring to know some people will step in and help a police officer when they are in need.”

A consequence of the job

Sgt Tony Lester, of Norwich police, said the assault was “unfortunately, a consequence of the job”.

“As a supervisor you want to protect your staff, but it is a sad fact over recent years the level of violence towards police officers is increasing,” he said.

“She has been very brave and I know police officers who have been here for years who would not attempt to tackle someone on their own.

“Members of the public don’t always intervene when police are dealing with people but thankfully this person did.”

The 17-year-old from the London area was searched at the scene and in custody, and around 100 wraps were found along with cash and a burner phone.

He pleaded guilty to causing actual bodily harm and possession with intent to supply at Norwich Magistrates Court on Tuesday, and was remanded into custody awaiting sentence.

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