Machete attacker evaded improved security

12th July 1996 at 01:00
Security at the Wolverhampton infants school where a man wielding a machete injured three children and four adults in an indiscriminate attack was tightened following the fatal stabbing of London headteacher Philip Lawrence.

Extra alarms, lights and locks on external doors were installed earlier this year at St Luke's, a Church of England school with 165 pupils aged three to six. Some bushes and trees were removed.

On the advice of a working party created in February comprising the police, fire service, teachers' organisations and Wolverhampton community safety partnership, personal alarms are to be issued to all school staff at a cost of Pounds 10,000.

The local authority has set aside Pounds 60,000 in next year's education budget for school security, and promised to match from its insurance fund any money raised by individual schools and outside agencies.

From next term a training programme addressing issues such as visitor access will be launched as part of measures to ensure minimum standards of personal safety and physical security.

A security database is also being created, based on a questionnaire filled in by headteachers. St Lukes's indicated it was satisfied with its improved arrangements.

But Councillor David Hawkins, who chairs the review, admitted, as the working party recognised at the outset, that "there was nothing we could do to prevent a Dunblane-style incident".

St Luke's, a "well managed school with caring and supportive staff", according to Roy Lockwood, Wolverhampton's director of education, occupies a compact site close to the city centre. The assailant did not wander in unchallenged but climbed over a 4ft wall and a low fence before attacking the children as they sat outside during a teddy bears' picnic. Closed circuit security cameras would have made little difference.

Bob Jones, chair of education, paid tribute to the courage of parents and staff who risked their lives to protect pupils. "It could have been a lot worse. We have the greatest admiration for their actions," Mr Jones said.

Nursery nurse Lisa Potts was slashed on her head and back as she tried to shelter the children. One of the pupils she was trying to protect, three-year-old Ahmed Malik, received a 5ins head wound and underwent a three-hour operation in hospital.

Rhena Chopra, four, suffered serious facial injuries. A third child, Francesca Quintyne, had one ear partially severed and her jaw broken. She will require extensive plastic surgery and may be disfigured for life. Mother Wendy Willington received a fractured jaw and cuts to her back and head as she protected her four-year-old son.

Police, who earlier named 32-year-old Horrett Campbell as a suspect, arrested a man on Tuesday evening, some 28 hours after the attack, in a nearby block of flats.

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