Amateur Photographer

When photography is a life-saver

Paul Williams, wildlife photographer

a warm spring day in March 2010 Paul Williams’ life changed forever. As a policeman, ex-soldier, and former mental-health specialist he had witnessed plenty of unsettling events, so when a tall, unkempt woman burst into Bournemouth police station, whipped out a samurai sword, and threatened to kill everyone in the room he reacted swiftly. ‘I diverted her attention from others by shouting at her, trying to make myself the target,’ he recalls. ‘She raised the sword above her head, and I instinctively found my [pepper] spray, dispensing the contents into her eyes.’ The woman (who was suffering from schizophrenia) dropped the weapon, ‘screaming and clawing at her face’ as the spray took effect. She was arrested (and later sectioned under the Mental Health Act), while Paul was left to complete a mountain of paperwork, and get on with his job. Three months later, on the eve of his 50th birthday, this stoic man was lying on a hospital bed with a wall of machines monitoring his vital signs. Paul believed he was having a heart attack, but the health professionals disagreed with his self-diagnosis. Having seen his GP, he was signed off

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