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Cops handed top bravery awards for tackling maniac terrorising GP surgery with a meat cleaver

Hero cops have won bravery awards for tacking a maniac armed with a meat cleaver who was terrorising a GP surgery.

PCs Simon Toft and Alicia Snowden confronted Michael Brannigan at Woodley Health Centre in Stockport after he had threatened staff and patients in March.

Terrified receptionists locked themselves in consultation rooms while a doctor held a door shut and tried to reason with Brannigan, who had robbed a pharmacy and attacked a stranger minutes earlier.

PC Toft was first on the scene with his trainee, PC Alicia Snowden.

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He had to fire his Taser stun gun at Brannigan for 19 seconds to subdue him before PC Snowden arrested him.

Now the two officers have been named North West regional bravery award winners at an annual gala in London to celebrate the courage of police officers.

“He was going absolutely berserk,” said PC Toft after he received his gong.

He said at first he thought Brannigan was a patient until he lunged towards him with a metal pole.

When he realised he was armed with knives he fired his Taser, but Brannigan simply ripped the two barbs from his chest.


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PC Snowden kicked away the pole and managed to palm Branningan away, which gave PC Toft the time to reload and fire his Taser again.

Describing the incident following a reception for the award winners at 10 Downing Street, PC Toft said: “All in all I think it was seven times that he was Tasered. Every time he looked like he was complying. He would stop and say ‘alright, alright’.

“But that bought him the time to get more knives. He had a meat cleaver. He was trying to reach for a meat cleaver. He kept going on until, luckily, he gave up and Alica was just on him, arrested him and put him in handcuffs.”

He added: “It’s just so nice to be recognised, just for doing your daily job really.”

The pair were first called to a pharmacy in Woodley following reports of a robber armed with a hammer was threatening staff with a knife.



Michael Brannigan

Further calls were then received that the same man was inside Woodley Medical Centre, armed with an axe and several kitchen knives.

He was said to have been threatening to stab staff and had also thrown a chair through the window of the surgery.

PC Toft had no time to brief PC Snowden, who had just finished her first five weeks of training.

Brannigan, 50, was jailed in August for three years and five months for his 20-minute spree of offending.

“You caused terror and harm to members of the public in different public places, two of which were places where vulnerable individuals would go to receive medication and support,” Judge John Potter told him at Minshull Street Crown Court, describing Brannigan’s crime spree as ‘planned and utterly deplorable’.



Chief Constable Stephen Watson (left) with PCs Simon Toft and Alicia Snowden who were handed GMP’s Egerton Trophy for bravery in August 2021

“The fact that all of this took place at a time when our communities are struggling through a health pandemic, places into context this serious offending.

“This was planned knife crime towards members of the public, health workers and police officers, some of whom acted with great bravery to prevent what was a serious incident having grave consequences.”

The court heard Brannigan had been to his doctors at Woodley Health Centre on the morning of Friday, March 12, demanding copies of his medical records and being ‘aggressive’ to staff, saying he would return later.

“Bluntly, you then preceded to cause mayhem and harm during three separate incidents,” Judge Potter said.



Brannigan is led away

Later, at about 12.20pm, Brannigan was seen on nearby Oldham Drive by an elderly man who was driving, on his way to do some shopping.

Brannigan pulled his car in front of the man’s vehicle, and started shouting at him.

After winding his window down to speak to Brannigan, the defendant hit him two or three times to the face with his walking stick.

His victim was not seriously hurt but was left shocked and shaken after seeing Brannigan pick up a knife, and start banging on his window with it, as well as hitting the car with his walking stick.

A woman who was with the man to help with his shopping was ‘screaming and shaking’.

A few minutes later, Brannigan went into a pharmacy in Woodley Precinct and spoke with a female dispenser, telling her: “Can I have a word? You’re not going to like what I am going to say.”



Police outside the Woodley Health Centre

Brannigan said he wanted zopiclone, amitriptyline and diazepam, and warned her he had a knife.

He complained about how long it was taking, before the pharmacist handed over the medication and he left.

After a few minutes, Brannigan went back to Woodley Health Centre and demanded to see the ‘main man’.

‘Menacing’ Brannigan was wielding a knife in one hand, and holding his walking stick in the other.

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Receptionists fled to an office, holding a door shut as Brannigan tried to get in.

Acting with ‘considerable bravery’, the doctor took over holding the door to allow the receptionists to lock themselves in consultation rooms.

He tried to calm him down, but Brannigan used an office chair to smash a window.



Brannigan is Tasered

He told the doctor that ‘the others could leave’, because it was the doctor ‘who was the hostage’, prosecutor Verity Quaite said.

He told the doctor: “If I see you again, I’m coming for you”.

Brannigan was seen holding a meat cleaver, and tried to hit the surgery’s practice manager with it.

Police arrived at about 12.45pm, and PC Toft ordered him to drop a part of a chair he was holding.

He told the officer to ‘f*** off’, and as Brannigan lunged towards him the officer fired his Taser.

Police discovered Brannigan had two knives in his back pocket, a meat cleaver and another knife in a bag.

Brannigan, of Parry Mead, Stockport, pleaded guilty to robbery, two counts of affray, common assault, two counts of having an offensive weapon, and four counts of having an article with a blade or point.

New recruit PC Snowden had only just finished five weeks of her tutor phase with PC Toft, but she still kept a cool head and stuck to her training.

She explained: “Due to the situation changing so rapidly, there was no time for Simon to fully brief me so my job was to be aware of my surroundings and do what I’d been trained to do whilst keeping myself, my colleague and the public safe.

“The extensive and thorough training we go through as officers gives you every eventuality however until you are faced with a scenario such as this one, you never know how the incident is going to play out.

“I am thankful for the training that I had been given together with the way myself and PC Toft worked together to prevent anyone coming to harm.”

Chief Constable Stephen Watson said “This incident, whilst shocking, shows the danger that our officers run towards on a daily basis.

“They put themselves in situations that others would run from, to protect our communities and thanks to their quick actions, this incident ended without harm or injury.

“I am proud to have two such officers as a part of our force.”



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