M1 Scratchwood 2016

Cops and Horrors

by Northern Life


‘Just put down the knife and let the boy go,’ I say. My voice is surprisingly level, optimistic even, but I’m thinking, ‘I might die tonight.’

I’m standing before a man called Dwayne, who’s six-feet-six and built like an American footballer. He’s holding his son Tyler, lifting him off the kitchen floor by his curly hair, yanking his head backwards while pressing a twelve-inch blade against the boy’s throat. Between juddered gasps and screams, Tyler calls,‘Mummy, Mummy. Help me. Mummy. Please.’ Tears stream over his upturned chin, down his neck. He is no older than ten. Dwayne tightens his grip on the boy and the knife, eyes blazing.

I’m just a few months into the job, yet I could die right here.

‘Get the f*** out of my house, or I’ll cut his f****** throat,’ he yells. I inch forwards in the hallway, clenching my pathetic truncheon aloft. Beneath my woollen tunic, my back is wet with sweat. ‘Let the boy go. Don’t do anything stupid. Put the knife down,’ I repeat.

I take another tentative step, so as I’m on the threshold of the hall and the kitchen. Dark thoughts whirl: What if Dwayne slits his son’s throat? I can’t let that happen. No way. But Dwayne’s at least three inches taller and four stone heavier than me. His weight is all muscle. Will he stab me? Will it be a quick death? I’m just a few months into the Job, yet I could die right here. In this maisonette on a housing estate in East Acton.

‘Put the knife down.’ That’s Constable Fiona. She’s behind me in the hall, my backup until the armed response unit arrives. But we can’t afford to wait for them. Frantic screams from the front garden, where Tyler’s mum Sandra waits with my other colleague, Constable Graham.

‘I said, get out of my house,’ Dwayne warns me again, his tone now low and demonic. ‘Or I will slice his throat.’ He shuffles towards me, still gripping his son. The blade, slick with Tyler’s tears, glistens in the fluorescent lighting. As Dwayne advances, a reflection of his back appears in the glass door that gives way to the rear garden.He has another knife stashed in the left back pocket of his jeans. A taste of bile fills my mouth.An hour earlier I’d been on foot patrol, the Housemartins’ Happy Hour looping in my mind as I plodded along nearby Old Oak Common Lane. There wasn’t much doing. I need a big incident, I’d thought and, just then the police radio cut in: ‘Domestic disturbance in progress. The caller says her boyfriend is being aggressive and has threatened to assault her. There is a young child on the premises. Graded immediate response.’

Matt receiving a ‘People of Achievement Award’ from the Mayor of Hammersmith & Fulham

I was at the scene in less than five minutes, well within the recommended twelve-minute response time. A minute later, Constables Graham and Fiona hurtled into the street in their Rover 2600 Area car, twos and blues (sirens and lights) screaming and flashing. Sandra had answered the door, visibly distressed, her partner Dwayne effing and blinding in the background. At this point, Tyler was sitting on the stairs, sobbing.

‘You’re nicked for knives and fighting and stuff,’ I begin.

Once inside I took Sandra into the lounge while Fiona and Graham spoke to Dwayne in the kitchen. And what happened next happened fast. Fiona screamed, ‘Knife!’ and torpedoed out of the house with Graham. When I crept into the hall seconds later, Dwayne was dragging the screaming Tyler into the kitchen. Under my cover, Sandra escaped through the front door, and that’s how I ended up here, confronting a maniac who’s threatening to slice open his kid’s throat.I open my mouth to speak but no words form. My heart thrums in my ears. I’m trying to maintain eye contact with Dwayne, whose face is wild and feral. His breath a rumbling growl. Tyler’s hysterical, hyperventilating. But my attention shifts; I see a figure in the back garden, on the other side of the glass door behind Dwayne. A man in dark clothing, holding what looks to be a brick above his head: Constable Graham. I swallow hard.

‘Put the knife down and let the boy go,’ I say once more as Graham’s silhouette fills the doorframe. Crash. The glass door explodes, sending a shower of shards over Dwayne and Tyler. One, two, three steps, and I’m there, smashing my truncheon into Dwayne’s head. It makes a sickening sound, like a sledgehammer to a peach. At the same time, Fiona steams in, grabs the knife from Dwayne’s hand, and the one in his pocket, and throws them into the hall. Tyler breaks free and runs to his mum. Blood pours from Dwayne’s head. As he slumps to the glass carpet he mumbles, ‘Oh no.’

Matt’s vision of joining the police involved Starsky & Hutch-inspired car chases and capturing villains, however, it soon became clear that the reality was far from his boyhood dreams

While Dwayne’s down I drop to my knees and, handcuffing him, read him his rights. ‘You’re nicked for knives and fighting and stuff,’ I begin. It’s not the correct terminology, but in adrenaline-fuelled moments such as these, official language goes out of the window. ‘You do not have to say anything, but it’ll look pretty bad for you if you don’t.’

Dwayne is semi-conscious, his head split open. As my adrenalinerush subsides, panic creeps in. I look at Dwayne, at his bloody head and think, I could’ve killed him. If I were armed, I would have been within my rights to shoot him. Likewise, Dwayne could have killed his son, or killed me.I breathe in, exhale, slip my bloodied truncheon into its pocket on my outer trouser leg, and suddenly realise: This is my job for the next 30 years.

Lancashire lad Matt Calveley had always wanted to be a police officer – it was a childhood dream that almost led him to the grand theft auto of a panda car, in an incident involving a lost football and his neighbour’s perennials. Matt’s vision of joining the police involved Starsky & Hutch-inspired car chases and capturing villains, however, it soon became clear that the reality was far from his boyhood dreams. The copper once found himself sitting outside a juror’s house on Christmas Day for hours on end, having to politely accept a fourth serving of Christmas lunch in a scene reminiscent of the Vicar of Dibley. Another day on the job involved being attacked by a squirrel monkey who had climbed into a house while the resident was doing the washing up.

Matt Calveley

“I wanted to portray an overwhelmingly positive experience of a career in policing, while recognising that we all make mistakes and have embarrassing moments!” Matt explains.“I have read a great many books by ex-cops, most of which make for fantastic and engrossing reading, but in a small minority I noticed two recurring themes –those where the authors portray themselves as ‘super-cops’ who have never put a foot wrong, and those where the authors seem to be venting a lot of bitterness and resentment. Neither of those resonated with my own experience of policing, so I strived to keep it authentic.”

Matt describes his three decades as a police officer as “an absolute blast.”

Despite almost losing his thumb from the vicious monkey attack, numerous other terrifying incidents and the mundane hours on the beat, Matt describes his three decades as a police officer as “an absolute blast.”After retiring in January 2016 and spending lockdown recalling memories from his eventful career with the London Metropolitan Police Force, Matt decided to write a book, with the help of his ghost-writer Nicola Stow, detailing his time as a police officer. With car chases in abundance, I’m sure six-year-old Matt would have loved it just as much as Starsky & Hutch!

Cops and Horrors: Secret Tales from the Front Line is available from Amazon priced at £6.99 and is published by Mirror Books.