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Pensioner killed saving nurse from Penygraig knife attack honoured for bravery

17 Mar 2023 3 minute read
Police at the scene of the attack in Penygraig on May 5 2020. Photo PA Images

A heroic pensioner who died attempting to save a nurse from an armed attacker in a Co-op store has been recognised for his bravery.

Church bell ringer John Rees, 88, did not hesitate before intervening to stop a mentally ill woman from carrying out a frenzied knife attack on shoppers at the supermarket in the village of Penygraig, Rhondda, south Wales, on May 5 2020.

Mr Rees was at the shop counter when he saw Zara Radcliffe enter and begin stabbing at passing customers with a kitchen knife.

He 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.

However, as Radcliffe lunged forward, Mr Rees lost his balance and fell backwards.

Lisa Way and Ayette Bounouri then stepped in 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, in a final act of bravery, 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.

All three have been awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal, the last to be approved by the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Horrific situation

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.”

Also among the 15 recipients are the four men who confronted convicted terrorist Usman Khan as he carried out an attack at the Learning Together event in Fishmongers’ Hall, London, on November 29 2019.

Steven Gallant, John Crilly, Darryn Frost and Lukasz Koczocik helped disarm and restrain Khan, who had two large knives and a fake suicide belt, until armed police arrived at the scene.

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

“We all hope we’d react with courage in the face of danger. These people have lived through that test, and responded in the most admirable way,” he said.

“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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