Watch: Police officers recall horrifying moment when colleagues were doused in petrol
A crowd shouted “light them up” after eight police officers were doused in petrol following a motorbike chase.
The officers were covered in fuel as they made an arrest on the Ward Close estate in Basildon, Essex, last May.
They recalled the horrifying incident for BBC One documentary Critical Incident, which was broadcast on Monday evening.
Officers had been in pursuit of a motorbike which was being ridden dangerously in nearby Canvey Island.
After following the rider for eight miles, accompanied by a police helicopter, they attempted to make an arrest in Basildon which attracted a large crowd.
One woman threatened officers with a hammer before a man threw petrol over them.
The officers said they heard people in the crowd shout, “Who’s got matches?” and “light them up”.
Two of the officers were treated in hospital after ingesting fuel in the incident and firefighters had to wash petrol out of their eyes.
A total of 90 officers arrived at the scene to aid their colleagues.
PC Andrew Bird said: “Out of the corner of my eye I saw a gentleman appear from down one of the alleyways. He was just sprinting full speed towards where we were.”
After intercepting the man, the pair fell to the floor.
"I was pretty much at the bottom of the pile," said PC Bird. "You've got officers trying to get him off of me, he had his arms wrapped round my legs trying to keep hold of me.
"It was as I was trying to control this gentleman who had run out of the middle of nowhere that this other chap has appeared with a watering can.”
PC Matthew Cutts said he didn’t know what was in the watering can but suspected it could be acid.
"I could smell petrol so I sort of fumbled around to get my baton out but once I've got it I've put it behind my head and just struck him in line with my training,” he said.
"It's not a random act of violence, it's a controlled measure that we are taught to use to get people away from us."
PC Cutts said he felt his skin stinging and tingling on the front of his body where he had been doused in petrol.
Chief Inspector Jonathan Baldwin said: "One match, one lighter, one spark could result in us going up in flames and being disfigured for life or possibly even dead.
"I was hearing them shout 'light them up'.
"I don't know how we didn't just cut and run but then that's not the way we're wired - we all stuck together.
"There's something running in the core of us that says you don't run away from the danger, you run towards it."
Residents helped rinse the petrol off the officers with water until the fire service arrived.
Justin Jackson, 28, from Ward Close, who threw the petrol over the officers, was jailed for three years and nine months.
A 17-year-old from Basildon was disqualified from driving for 12 months and fined for driving a motor vehicle dangerously.
Janine Justin, 47, from Basildon, was found guilty of possession of an offensive weapon and sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months.
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