Bravery awards for police officers following eye-gouging attack in water-logged storm drain

A policeman who feared his eyes would be gouged out in a water-filled storm drain and the officer who saved him have both been given awards for bravery.

West Midlands Police officer Paul Newman pursued Calvert Batchelor – a man linked to gangs and drug dealing – into a storm drain in Walsall after stopping him to search his car.

The suspect launched himself at PC Newman and used one hand to try to gouge his eyes causing him “indescribable pain”, the West Midlands Police Federation said.

Image: PC Holly Necchi brought her baby Autumn to meet Home Secretary at the Downing Street reception. Pic: Tim Hammond / Number 10

He was rescued by PC Holly Necchi who followed her colleague’s panicked shouting.

Both risked their lives to enter the 10ft wide and 6ft high storm drain without knowing what they would encounter, a spokesperson added.

They were honoured at the national Police Bravery Awards, held at Downing Street on Tuesday.

PC Necchi attended with her new baby girl Autumn and was congratulated by Home Secretary Priti Patel at a reception within Number 10.

The incident unfolded after PC Newman and PC Necchi stopped Batchelor’s car in Bescot Retail Park, Walsall on 17 July 2019.

After search Bachelor on the Police National Computer, it was established he had warning markers for possession of a firearm and intelligence linked him to gangs and drug dealing.

Image: Ms Patel meets nominees for the Police Bravery Award at a reception held within Number 10 Downing Street. Pic: Tim Hammond / Number 10

PC Necchi got Batchelor out of the car and began a stop and search, but Batchelor fled. PC Necchi chased him into a brook alongside the area where the car had been stopped and, realising he was surrounded, Batchelor ran into a storm drain.

PC Newman, who was a passenger in an unmarked police car involved in the operation, followed and entered the drain after Batchelor.

Batchelor, “lunged” at the officer, “gouging at his eyes and grabbing inside his mouth with such force that he punctured a hole under his tongue”, the West Midlands Police Federation said.

PC Newman was held underwater for 30 seconds during the altercation leaving him “physically spent”, when PC Necchi arrived and helped detain Batchelor, saving his life.

Image: A total of 94 brave officers from forces across England and Wales were put forward for an award. Pic: Tim Hammond / Number 10

Meanwhile, officers searching Batchelor’s car found a firearm in the driver’s door.

Batchelor admitted possessing an illegal firearm and ammunition, plus wounding, and was jailed for nine years and four months.

Jon Nott, chair of West Midlands Police Federation, said: “These two officers were incredibly brave, neither of them really knew what they would encounter when they ran into this storm drain.

“They knew the man they were pursuing had a gun in his car and they knew he desperately wanted to escape from them. But, despite that, they were determined to catch him regardless of the fact they were putting their own lives at risk to do so.

“For PC Necchi there was the added pressure of knowing her colleague was under attack so it was critical she got to him.

“PC Newman put up a valiant fight when he came under a sustained and horrific attack and I’m sure that PC Necchi’s arrival at the scene prevented him receiving further injuries or even worse.

Image: The ceremony was due to be held in London in July last year but was postponed due to the pandemic. Pic: Tim Hammond / Number 10

“I am sure, like so many other nominees for the bravery awards, they would say they were just doing their job but their brave actions should be recognised.”

The annual Police Bravery Awards honour officers in England and Wales who have performed incredible acts of bravery, while on or off duty.

A total of 94 brave officers from forces across England and Wales were put forward for an award.

The ceremony was due to be held in London in July last year but was postponed due to the pandemic.