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Richard Emmott

Richard Emmott

When Richard Emmott hung up his rugby boots for the last time, he had no idea that the skills he acquired on the pitch would one day be called upon to avert a shooting tragedy.

 

The stocky builder and electrician was meeting a hotel owner to discuss renovation work one evening in 1999 when the bar manager ran in and told them a gunman was running amok outside. As the three left the hotel they came face-to-face with the man. In his hands was a double-barrelled shotgun - and it was pointing straight at them.

Unknown to them, the man had just blasted the window of a nearby nightclub after a row with staff. Although no one was injured, he had reloaded and was intent on causing further trouble in Sidmouth town centre in Devon.

As passers-by dived for cover, Richard ran around the back of the hotel and, catching the gunman unawares, rugby-tackled him to the pavement.

Richard, 33, who played for the town's rugby club before giving up in 1994 because of knee injuries, says: "When I heard there was someone with a gun I just didn't believe it - things like that don't happen in Sidmouth.

"I saw he had the butt of the gun in his hand and knew it would take him a while to get it into the firing position. I tackled him to the floor and he dropped it."

As they struggled, the gunman's girlfriend rushed over, brandishing two carving knives, and slashed Richard across the arm and face. She was pulled off by a passer-by and Richard held the gunman down until armed police arrived.

Richard, who lives with his wife, Michelle, 31, and their three-year-old son Jack, in the town, needed eight stitches for the knife wounds. The 26-year-old gunman was jailed for nine years and the girl put on probation for three years.

Det Chief Insp Brian Edwards, of Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, said: "It is highly likely that Richard saved many lives. If ever there was a hero, this is him."