Regional award for Essex officer who saved man’s life on holiday

13 July 2017

An Essex Police officer who saved a man’s life while he was on holiday has been named as Region 5 (South Eastern) winner at the 22nd National Police Bravery Awards.

The awards, sponsored by Police Mutual, honour and recognise police officers who perform outstanding acts of bravery.  Sergeant Richard Burgess was on a pilgrimage in Jerusalem, Israel, when he intervened in a serious assault, saving a man’s life despite being attacked himself.

Sgt Burgess, who hopes to become a priest when he retires from the force, had just visited Oskar Schindler’s grave when a local woman approached him, pointing down the street saying “please help them, please help them.”

The officer noticed two children crying at the entrance to an alleyway and, as he looked down it, he saw a man being dragged and hit by three young Arab men. Without a second thought, Sgt Burgess ran down the alleyway where he saw the man’s eyes streaming as if having received some form of noxious substance. One of the Arab men had a leather belt wrapped around his fist, with the large silver buckle forming a knuckleduster.

He ran at the group, tackling one of the men, and holding him in a headlock under his right arm. This was despite a recent injury meaning his right hand was not fully functional. With his left hand, he pulled at the Jewish man, freeing him and yelling at him to run. Two other members of the holiday tour - who happened to be off-duty Metropolitan Police officers - arrived to help the victim to safety.

The offenders then turned their attention to Sgt Burgess who still had hold of one of the suspects. The man with the belt began hitting him, while another man appeared wielding a claw hammer, striking Sgt Burgess over the head so hard he stunned him, and slumped against the wall.

As he sat staring up, he saw the man raise the claw hammer again above his head. Realising this may be a fatal blow, Sgt Burgess gathered his remaining strength and raised his arms wide and open as he tried to stand. It was enough to make the offender pause, and two of the men began yelling at him to get away.

Despite not being able to see properly because of the blow, the officer simply applied ice to the large bruise that appeared, and tried to get on with his holiday. Israeli Police later informed him that the suspects had been arrested and two men were later convicted of assault in the Jewish courts.

He was told that he had probably saved the man’s life. The incident only came to light when the two other officers on the same trip wrote to his chief constable of his bravery.

After receiving his award from Policing Minister Nick Hurd, Sgt Burgess said: “I am stunned. I feel very, very humbled to win this award. I’m not very good at accepting praise but I am very flattered to win this award.
“I wasn’t on duty so it was completely unexpected. I didn’t feel any fear, I just did what I feel is my duty really.
“I don’t like to make a fuss but I’ve had a fantastic day today – one that I will never forget.”

Steve Taylor, Chair of Essex Police Federation said: “A police officer is never truly off-duty, and it is brave and courageous acts like that of Sgt Burgess that prove that. He put himself in true danger, in a foreign country, because he could see someone in need. He is truly deserving of this award.”

Stephen Mann, CEO of Police Mutual, said: “Every nominee at this year’s awards has shown outstanding courage and thoroughly deserves to be recognised. Your continued bravery helps ensure that millions of people in our country are kept safe, which is perhaps more important than ever given recent events across the world. This is why we proudly continue to support this event.”

More information on our Bravery Awards