Three Britons – one a former professional footballer – have helped restrain a man accused of a stabbing attack in broad daylight in the centre of Sydney.
Police and ambulances responded to reports of an armed man about 2pm in the heart of the city’s business district. Police said the man had allegedly stabbed a woman in the back and “attempted to stab multiple people”. A woman was later found dead in a nearby apartment in a case which is believed to be connected.
Video from the scene showed the alleged attacker waving a knife and jumping on top of a car in the street. The vehicle drove off and the man jumped to the ground before being approached by members of the public.
“Shoot me, fucking shoot me in the fucking head, shoot me, I want to fucking die,” he can be heard shouting in footage of the event.
Paul O’Shaughnessy, 37, who played professionally for English football club Bury, and his brother Luke, 30, from Manchester, were in their office with their friend Lee Cuthbert when they heard a disturbance. They saw the alleged attacker wielding what Paul said was a knife and covered in blood, and chased him.
He told the Guardian at the scene that, together with other onlookers, they had managed to subdue the alleged offender. Paul said the man had yelled “extremist” slogans, but he declined to repeat what he had said.
“We just finished lunch … We’re just based on King Street and we have a window slightly open so we can hear noise and traffic and we heard a lot of shouting which was now obviously the attacker, and my brother opened the window even more and he said, ‘Mate, there’s a guy wielding a knife.’
“Our immediate reaction was, right, let’s go and help, if he’s wielding a knife. So we went down the escalator, ran out, and you could see all the public on this side of the road and we were like, ‘Where is he?’
“Could see a little bit of blood so we knew he’s done something with that knife, so we just ran after him basically and people were shouting, ‘He’s down that way.’
“… In our heads we were saying to each other, ‘Be careful, be careful,’ and we were asking witnesses, we were saying, ‘What has he got, is there anything else?’ ‘Nah, it’s just a knife’ – so that made us press forward even more because you can tackle someone if it’s like that, not if he’s got a gun or whatever.
“So we went straight over, we got him near a cafe down near George Street. There was one guy already tussling and we just kind of like, everyone just jumped on the guy.”
Other footage on social media showed members of the public and firefighters restraining him on the ground with cafe chairs and milk crates.
O’Shaughnessy said the attacker had been mumbling when he was on the ground.
“He had blood on his hands and he was shouting radical things which I don’t want – I don’t think the world needs to see that kind of divide because, for me being a religious guy, I don’t think that is religion in any way from what I know of all the different religions.”
O’Shaughnessy said it was his brother Luke who had taken the initiative and tackled the attacker.
“I’ve always been that type of guy that I’ll analyse it a bit and see the risk but we’re also raised by good parents who were like, ‘Help people,’ and that’s what we do. We have jobs where we help people and, without sounding heroic, helping people is the primary driver and then afterwards you’re like, ‘Holy, what have we just done there, that was a dangerous thing to do.’
“But honestly it just didn’t enter into my head and I know def with Luke because Luke was straight in there and I just analysed the situation and, you know, as a brother he was my major concern. I was like, ‘Luke, be careful, be careful.’ He was just on him and that was it then.”
The former Bury player said he believes Sydney is a safe city and his view on this will not change.
“Sydney’s just given me a second chance in life, to be honest. Without sounding cheesy and heroic that was kind of like my gift back to what Sydney’s done for me in the past decade …
“But even the fact that we managed to have some involvement in suppressing the guy from doing any further damage – for me that’s worth everything so I’m delighted.”
He said his mother back in the UK had always been frightened for his safety and he had yet to tell her about the incident.
“No, she’s going to go crazy! I’m going to get my wife to call my mum but I’m just going to go out and chill out and try and relax.”
New South wales police have described the people who restrained the man as “heroes”.
“I want to acknowledge those members of the public who got involved. They were significantly brave people … They are heroes,” Supt Gavin Wood said.
Police confirmed they were investigating a number of crime scenes and that they believed the man acted on his own. They asked people to avoid the area.