Leon and PC James Willetts were attacked in West Bromwich town centre on the morning of 21 July last year.
The PCs were on uniformed patrol in Queens Square Shopping Centre to reassure the public following recent violence in the town, with extra powers, known as Section 60 powers, granted at the time to carry out stop checks.
The brothers – Parminder Hunjan and Maninder Hunjan – were first spotted outside Boots, carrying large black backpacks and wearing thick coats and gloves, which was unusual clothing during a heatwave in mid-July.
PC James recalls: “It was 30-degree weather, it was the hottest day we’d had for a long time, everyone was enjoying themselves eating ice cream, in shorts and T-shirts, so it seemed really weird to be walking around in puffer coats and heavy backpacks.”
His colleague Leon decided to search the pair under the Section 60 order that was in place.
The brothers were joined by a woman, who had been inside Boots, and the trio headed towards New Square via an escalator when Leon sped up to a slow jog to catch up with them, asking them to stop.
They didn’t slow down and James spotted Leon flagging the trio so began approaching them, however the situation quickly escalated.
“One of the men ran towards me screaming brandishing something and swinging around erratically,” said James.
It was Parminder, who then dropped his backpack on the floor and began rummaging through it before removing a long black object, which officers later confirmed was a knife.
Leon immediately leapt into action, using his Parva spray to try and disarm Parminder, who dropped the object back into his bag. However, he got back up and began lunging at Leon with a knife in his hand.
James added: “They continued to run towards us screaming, I could see Leon getting chased so I started heading towards him but then I suddenly felt a massive sharp pain in the back of my head and my helmet went flying onto the floor.”
Maninder had slashed the officer with a knife, the wound was later glued at hospital. A witness described seeing Maninder trying to stab James to the head at least three times.
“I could see Leon getting chased by Parminder who was still swinging the knife. I thought, either one of us are going at this point – in our training we’re taught if it ever comes to knives, a slice in the wrong place and you can bleed out in minutes.”
Despite bleeding from their wounds, both officers managed to remain calm and detain the brothers, and prevent any members of the public from getting harmed.
“There were loads of people around screaming, we were conscious there were children nearby. Shops had put their shutters down, making sure the people inside were safe. You don’t think about yourself, you’re thinking about everyone else,” said James.
“We’re glad we stopped them and not someone else, like the security staff. They weren’t wearing the protective equipment we were and they’re lovely people so you wouldn’t want any of them to get hurt.”
Leon suffered a slash wound to his forehead and hand, as well as cuts and scratches. Security guards at the shopping centre and other officers at the scene ushered the public to safety and stepped in to help restrain the brothers, who continued to resist arrest.
Leon added: “Luckily we managed to overpower them, but it wasn’t easy and it was extremely frightening for the public as well. There were a lot of people there that day, the shopping centre was packed out. Considering the items we found on them, it was a very lucky escape. It was a miracle really that we only got minor injuries.”
Once the pair were restrained, James was able to assess his injuries: “I looked down and my stab vest was ripped and there was blood down the side. Leon then shouted over ‘your head’ and I put my hand up on the back, looked at it and it was full of blood. But I kept looking at Leon and was more worried about him.”
The brothers were found in possession of identical rucksacks. They both contained a significant stash of weapons, including a machete, an imitation gun, balaclavas and large quantities of cash.
We considered all possible motives, but did not find any evidence that this was connected to terrorism.
Parminder Hunjan, aged 37, and Maninder Hunjan, aged 26, were found of wounding with intent, and possession of an imitation firearm at Wolverhampton Crown Court today. They previously pleaded guilty to the charge of possessing offensive weapons.
They will be sentenced on 9 May.
Chief Superintendent Ian Green, Sandwell police commander, said: “It’s your worst nightmare, hearing your officers getting stabbed.
“This doesn’t just impact on them, they are sons, fathers etc, so this has a much wider impact on their families, friends and colleagues. I’m just really thankful they weren’t significantly injured.
“I’m incredibly proud of how brave they’ve been. They ran towards dangers and dealt with people with multiple weapons. Thankfully this doesn’t happen every day and isn’t a regular occurrence.
“We still don’t know why the attack occurred, we may never know the answer to that, what I do know is that our officers saved people’s lives that day.”
Both Leon and James, who received counselling and support, said they did not consider quitting.
“If anything it solidifies that you want to stay in the job more, because it shows the dangers that are out there,” said James.
Leon added: “Thankfully I get to work with some brilliant people, and West Midlands Police has really supported me through the process. It was a terrible incident but not for one moment have I thought about quitting.”