Officer praised for tackling gunman with pepper spray

Sergent Matt Bill with PC Indi Singh. Photo: Paul Franks
Sergent Matt Bill with PC Indi Singh. Photo: Paul Franks
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A brave police officer has spoken of the heart-stopping moment he came face to face with a gunman lying hidden in undergrowth in Peterborough.

Sergeant Matt Bill had been chasing Raymond Rowlett after the 23 year-old had stolen a moped from a pub last year.

The former armed officer thought he had been given the slip by Rowlett near his home on Oundle Road.

But he found him hiding on the ground near a garden shed pointing an imitation gun his head.

Unaware the handgun was fake, Sgt Bill said he was left waiting for a bullet to hit him in the head or chest.

With barely a thought Sgt Bill grabbed his CS spray and used it to overpower Rowlett, and then arrested him with the help of colleague PC Indi Singh.

On Friday Rowlett was jailed for four years, while Sgt Bill was given a commendation by Judge Nic Madge.

Sentencing, Judge Madge said: “Courts will do all they can to protect police officers performing their duty.

“The message is clear – anyone who points a firearm, whether real or imitation, at a police officer faces a lengthy prison sentence.”

Rowlett pleaded guilty to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, taking a vehicle without consent and driving with no insurance, no licence and with excess alcohol at a previous hearing.

Along with the jail term, he was banned from driving for two years.

Following the hearing, Sgt Bill said he could still see the moment he saw the gun pointing at his head ‘like a photograph,’ despite the incident happening in May last year.

He said: “We received a call at about 7pm that a moped had been stolen from a pub. I attended the address where the moped had been seen.

“I saw a man run out of a back door so I jumped over a six foot high fence and ran after him, but I lost him when he ran behind a shed.

“Then I came round the corner, and saw him laying on the ground on his back with his hands around a gun, which was pointing at me.

“I served a number of years as an armed officer, but you do not know whether it is an imitation or the real thing.”

Sgt Bill said the story could have had a different outcome for both men - including Rowlett being shot - if armed officers had been on the scene.

“I had a number of options, including running away, but I was able to use my CS spray and reach round to spray him.

“It is the first time I have been in this scenario since I left the armed unit, although I have done similar things in training lots of times.

“You just don’t think about what could have happened. I have reflected on it for a while, and can still see the scene like it is a photograph.”

Giving Sgt Bill the commendation, Judge Madge said: “I commend Sergeant Matthew Bill who showed great bravery, as an unarmed officer, in disarming and arrested Raymond Rowlett who had pointed what he believed was a hand gun at his upper body and head.”

But modestly, the officer said he hoped it would serve as recognition for the work all officers carry out.

He said: “It is satisfying if people realise exactly what officers have to go through, and the situations they put themselves in.”