Pensioner who died trying to save nurse from knife attack honoured for bravery

John Rees, 88, did not hesitate before intervening to stop Zara Radcliffe’s (left) rampage (Pictures: Wales News Service)

A hero pensioner who died trying to save a nurse from a ‘horrific’ knife attack at a Co-Op store has been recognised for his bravery.

John Rees, 88, did not hesitate before intervening to stop Zara Radcliffe’s rampage in the village of Penygraig, Rhondda, South Wales, on May 5, 2020.

The church bell ringer was at the shop counter when he saw her walk in and begin stabbing at passing customers with a kitchen knife.

He took hold of Radcliffe’s right arm, which was holding the knife, and stepped between her and nurse Gaynor Saurin while trying to defuse the situation.

But as Radcliffe lunged forward, Mr Rees lost his balance and fell backwards.

Lisa Way and Ayette Bounouri intervened to help him, with Mrs Way grabbing Radcliffe’s arm holding the knife while Mrs Bounouri tried to use a shopping basket to disarm her.

Both women desperately tried to distract Radcliffe as she tried to stab Mrs Way several times, while Mrs Bounouri tried to drag Mr Rees to safety.

In a final act of bravery, the latter tried to grab the knife but was forced to back away.

Grandfather Mr Rees was ultimately stabbed and bludgeoned to death with two wine bottles and a fire extinguisher.

All three have been awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal, the last to be approved by the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Mr Rees’s family said the grandfather ‘would do anything for anyone’ (Picture: Wales News Service)
Radcliffe admitted manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility and was detained under a hospital order (Picture: Wales News Service)

Secretary of State for Wales David TC Davies said: ‘The three people from South Wales receiving these awards were placed in a horrific situation but all showed true heroism by standing up to protect others – actions which sadly saw Mr Rees tragically lose his life.

‘Mrs Way, Mrs Bounouri and Mr Rees faced the most appalling danger that day and it is right that all three have been recognised for their courage.

‘I thank them for their bravery and willingness to face great risk in order to help others.’

Also among the 15 recipients are the four men who confronted convicted terrorist Usman Khan as he carried out an attack at the Learning Together event in Fishmongers’ Hall, London, on November 29, 2019.

Steven Gallant, John Crilly, Darryn Frost and Lukasz Koczocik helped disarm and restrain Khan, who had two large knives and a fake suicide belt, until armed police arrived at the scene.

Fishmongers’ Hall terrorist Usman Khan being confronted by Darryn Frost, Steve Gallant and John Crilly on London Bridge following the attack (Picture: PA)

On behalf of the Government, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden thanked the recipients for their ‘selfless actions’.

‘We all hope we’d react with courage in the face of danger. These people have lived through that test, and responded in the most admirable way,’ he said.

‘Their selfless actions have saved lives, and I want to express profound thanks for their willingness to put themselves in danger to protect others.

‘They are all extremely worthy winners of the final Civilian Gallantry awards of Her Majesty the late Queen.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

For more stories like this, check our news page.