Essex Police officers who tackled Sir David Amess killer Ali Harbi Ali receive bravery award

  • The two officers tackled Ali after disarming him of a 12-inch carving knife

The two unarmed police officers who faced down a murderer armed with a foot-long carving knife have been given a bravery award, it has been revealed.

Essex Police said PC Ryan Curtis and PC Scott James were awarded the Merit Star – the force's highest accolade since 2020 – in a private ceremony in November for their actions in arresting Sir David Amess's killer Ali Harbi Ali.

Footage from their body-worn cameras shows them being told of what Ali had done inside the Belfairs Methodist Church, and how they confronted the killer before tackling him to the ground and arresting him. The video is blacked out in the middle because of its graphic nature.

The pair recalled the moment they arrived on the scene.

PC James said: “No one knew if there were any other members of the public inside with the attacker.

"At this point we knew there was no option other than for Ryan and I to go inside without Taser or firearms support.

“We couldn’t stand outside if there was a chance other people were getting attacked and we also wanted to get paramedics inside the building as soon as possible to save Sir David.

“Our biggest fear that day was that there were other defenceless people inside with Sir David waiting for the police to come through the door – so any fears we had were put to one side.”

The two officers were on their way back from arresting a wanted man when they picked up the call just after midday.

Both were dressed in plain clothes and were unarmed, with only their police batons and incapacitant spray for protection.

When they arrived at the church, they were told that an armed unit was on its way but still five minutes away from the scene.

A police officer at the scene near the Belfairs Methodist Church

PC Curtis said: “Once we got inside, we shouted at the suspect to drop the weapon and he refused and then he started walking towards us with the knife. 

“We didn’t know what he was going to do, we knew he might attempt to attack us, but we had to stop him getting past us as there were other members of the public outside.

"We carried on shouting at him and trying to persuade him to stop and eventually he dropped the weapon allowing us to arrest him.”

On Monday Ali Harbi Ali was convicted of Sir David's murder, after a jury took just 18 minutes to reach a guilty verdict.

PC Curtis said: “We are not heroes - we did what any other officer would have that day. We only wish we could have done more and we continue to think of both Sir David and his family.” 

Armed police officers outside the Belfairs Methodist Church in Eastwood Road North Credit: Nick Ansell/PA

PC James added: “When I look back, I know that we did all we could to detain the suspect and I’m really proud of the other officers and paramedics who did all they could to try and save Sir David. 

“Ryan and I just did what any other police officer would have done – and that’s doing your best and having each other’s backs in whatever situation you walk into.”

Essex Police’s Chief Constable BJ Harrington said: “Ryan and Scott represent everything that is remarkable about the officers of our great force. 

“They ran into the face of danger that day, not knowing what they would face and with their only thoughts being to apprehend the suspect, get help to Sir David and to protect other members of the public. 

“They are the embodiment of what it means to protect and serve the people of our great county and it is testament to their courage that I awarded them the very rare Merit Star accolade.