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A police officer helped a dangerous criminal evade capture by driving him home while colleagues were still trying to trace him, a court heard.
While the manhunt was under way, Pc Ian Johnson, 38, picked up the the man suspected of carrying out two assaults in a pub in Hyde in Manchester, before giving him a lift home without telling colleagues, jurors were told.
But the officer denies a charge of misconduct in a public office, saying he failed to arrest the burly ‘animal’ only because he was scared for his life, the Manchester Evening News reports.
Jurors at Liverpool Crown Court heard Pc Johnson, a father of a nine-year-old daughter with 15 years in the police, was one of the officers who responded to reports of two assaults at The Albion pub in Hyde town centre.
The violence happened on November 23, 2012, just two months after two of Pc Johnson’s colleagues at Hyde police station, Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, had been slaughtered in a gun-and-grenade attack by fugitive Dale Cregan.
The murder had an ‘unimaginable’ affect on staff at Hyde, according to Pc Johnson, who told the jurors how officers had been taught how to react when a grenade was thrown at them: “Lie on the floor and try to point your feet towards the hand grenade. If you’re lucky the blast will just hit your feet and legs and not your heart.”
It was amid such heightened tensions, according to the officer, that police responded to the assaults at The Albion.
But when officers arrived, the suspect had fled to another pub and Pc Johnson was scrambled to The Queen Adelaide in Hattersley to arrest him, the court heard.
When the officer joined a colleague who was already at the scene, the pair agreed it was too dangerous to go inside what was said to be a notorious pub, said Pc Johnson, who admitted he got onto the police Walkie Talkie and lied to colleagues by suggesting he had searched the pub and the suspect had fled onto the estate at the rear.
The suspect was named in court as Anthony Blakeley, 35, who it was said had a significant criminal history, which included offences of firearms and violence as well as an escape from custody.
Mr Blakeley, with 101 offences to his name, was said to be a cage-fighter who at the time was 15-stone of ‘solid muscle’.
“He’s an animal,” said Pc Johnson.
In fact Mr Blakeley was in the pub, the jurors were told.
When his colleague had driven away to another job, Pc Johnson turned his car around and picked up the suspect in his liveried patrol car before taking him to his home in Hattersley.
Pc Johnson apologised to the jurors about lying on the police radio – ‘it wasn’t one my better days’ – but insisted he had not at first recognised the man who had flagged him down outside the pub until he sat in his car seat, claiming the patrol car had been mistaken for a taxi.
The officer said he had feared for his life: “I thought ‘if it’s ever going to happen to me it would happen now. I thought I was in danger of being killed.”
Mr Blakeley was drunk and veered between being aggressive and in tears during the trip, during which the officer said he had managed to calm the suspect down.
Pc Johnson, who denied he had any ‘allegiance’ to the man, told the jurors he told Mr Blakeley he would come and arrest him the following day.
But the officer was arrested at his own home in Hyde before he began his next shift.
The trial continues.
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