Pensioner who died saving nurse from Pen-y-graig Co-op knife attack honoured with bravery award

Mr Rees ultimately died trying to defuse the attack Credit: Family photo/ITV Wales

A pensioner who died attempting to save a nurse from an armed attacker in a supermarket has been honoured with an award for his bravery.

Church bell ringer John Rees, 88, had intervened to stop a woman from carrying out a knife attack on shoppers at a Co-op store in the village of Pen-y-graig, Rhondda in May 2020.

All three people who helped in the attack – John Rees, Lisa Way and Ayette Bounouri will be awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.

Mr Rees was at the shop counter when Zara Radcliffe entered and began stabbing at passing customers with a kitchen knife.

Mr Rees took hold of Radcliffe’s right arm, which was holding the knife, and placed himself between her and nurse Gaynor Saurin while trying to defuse the situation.

At the time, police described the incident as "extremely distressing" for the local community.

But as Radcliffe lunged forward, Mr Rees fell backwards.

Lisa Way and Ayette Bounouri then stepped in to try to help Mr Rees, with Mrs Way grabbing the assailant’s arm holding the knife while Mrs Bounouri tried to use a shopping basket to disarm her.

Both women desperately tried to distract Radcliffe, who sought to stab Mrs Way several times, while Mrs Bounouri tried to drag Mr Rees to safety.

Mrs Bounouri tried to grab the knife from Radcliffe but was threatened and forced to back away.

Mr Rees was ultimately stabbed and bludgeoned to death with two wine bottles and a fire extinguisher as he attempted to stop Radcliffe.

Radcliffe admitted manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility and was detained under a hospital order.

John Rees, Lisa Way and Ayette Bounouri are among the last recipients of the Queen’s Gallantry Medal to be approved by the late Queen Elizabeth II, after 70 years of awards.

Secretary of State for Wales David TC Davies said: “The three people from South Wales receiving these awards were placed in a horrific situation but all showed true heroism by standing up to protect others – actions which sadly saw Mr Rees tragically lose his life.

"Mrs Way, Mrs Bounouri and Mr Rees faced the most appalling danger that day and it is right that all three have been recognised for their courage.

"I thank them for their bravery and willingness to face great risk in order to help others.”

On behalf of the Government, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden thanked the recipients for their “selfless actions”.

“Their selfless actions have saved lives, and I want to express profound thanks for their willingness to put themselves in danger to protect others.

“They are all extremely worthy winners of the final Civilian Gallantry awards of Her Majesty the late Queen.”

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