A man doused himself in lighter fuel and tried to set himself alight during a terrifying police stand-off.
Benjamin Mawhood, 37, from York, had a five-inch kitchen knife strapped to his hand as he “shuffled” towards an officer and threatened to set himself ablaze in the street.
It happened near his home in Fifth Avenue on 18 January.
The incident began when Mawhood rang police and told them he had doused himself in lighter fluid and planned to set himself on fire.
When officers arrived, they found him standing in the street and saw he had a five-inch blade strapped to his “right wrist and hand”.
“The defendant was holding a lighter in the other hand and officers saw his shirt was wet,” said Mr Atkins.
Realising to their “horror” that Mawhood had indeed doused himself in lighter fuel, they tried to calm him down but “to little effect”.
“At one point he held the knife to his own neck,” said Mr Atkins.
“There was a point where he shuffled towards a (named female) officer while brandishing the knife in her direction.”
The officer, fearing for her safety, drew a baton. Mawhood then walked into the grounds of St Aelred’s Church but found its doors locked.
“He told officers he wanted to enter the church and spoke of the devil,” said Mr Atkins.
Soon afterwards, Mawhood asked officers to shoot him. When he tried to set himself on fire, an officer used incapacitant spray to stop him.
Firearms officers then descended on the scene to relieve their unarmed colleagues and firefighters and paramedics were also at the scene.
Police cordoned off a large part of the road while the operation was underway, and residents weren’t allowed back to their homes until it was over.
Then Mawhood lifted up his shirt, revealing his stomach covered in black tape.
“He repeatedly pressed the knife into his stomach,” said Mr Atkins.
To prevent Mawhood from hurting himself, an officer fired a plastic pellet firing baton gun. This “shocked” Mawhood but didn’t deter him.
As more officers, including the dog unit, arrived at the church, Mawhood eventually agreed to lie down – but only if officers would bring him a drink of water.
Police then inched towards him and seized the knife and the cigarette lighter.
He was treated at the scene by ambulance staff before being taken to York Hospital, where he was sectioned.
‘High risk individual’
He was ultimately discharged but two weeks later, while on bail, he was back on the phone to police.
“He said he had covered his address in lighter fluid and planned to set it on fire,” said Mr Atkins.
When police arrived at the property, Mawwood’s mother was present with a priest from the local church. Officers found a damp patch on the carpet which was indeed lighter fuel.
“While speaking to police he lifted a tray containing white powder, snorting some (cocaine) from the tray,” added Mr Atkins.
Mawhood was arrested and again taken to hospital for treatment.
He was ultimately charged with carrying a knife in public and possessing Class A and B drugs. He admitted all three offences and appeared for sentence today (Wednesday, 19 July) after being remanded in custody.
The court heard he had nine previous offences on his record including threatening someone with an imitation firearm and carrying a knife, for which he received a three-year prison sentence in 2010.
His rap sheet also included affray, public disorder, carrying an offensive weapon and possessing cannabis in 2019, which resulted in a hospital order due to his mental-health problems.
His solicitor advocate Kevin Blount said Mawhood had been sectioned as recently as November last year and since then his mental stability had deteriorated.
Jailing Mawhood for 12 months, judge Simon Hickey described him as a “high-risk individual” and a danger to the public whose “fluctuating” mental health had been affected by drink and drug abuse and not taking his medication.
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