Storrington Waitrose eye-witness: ‘I wasn’t trying to be a hero’

Al Murray, who stepped in to help a woman being attacked in Waitrose, Storrington
Al Murray, who stepped in to help a woman being attacked in Waitrose, Storrington

A shopper who intervened when he realised a woman had suffered a cut and was doused in petrol in Storrington’s Waitrose has spoken of an incident which has shocked the community.

Al Murray, 37, had stopped in at the supermarket to pick up a few items of shopping before collecting his son Max from school.

His three-year-old daughter Lexi was with him when the incident happened, around 3pm on Wednesday, April 29. Al said: “I’d just been checked out and was waiting for my cash-back. A woman next in the queue was waiting to be served.

“I was just standing there when I heard a splash. I thought someone had spilt a drink and turned around.

“It took a minute to work out what was going on. I thought it was someone messing about, then I realised it was an old granny.”

Al said that he then realised there was a ‘massive knife’.

“It was really horrible. It was all so quick, it was really weird. I don’t know why I stepped forward. I don’t know if I realised that it was petrol that had been poured over her at that point. I took a step forwards and pushed a man away. Then I realised he was on fire. There was flames coming from his jumper.

“I thought someone was trying to do something really bad. I knew there was a knife so I didn’t want to get too close. I pushed him away and pulled her towards me. I thought that would help.

“When I saw a man was on fire, I stepped forward. He had flames on his top, and I put him out. I stamped the flames out with my hands.

“I still didn’t realise there was loads of petrol around. He just stood there looking at me, and I was just looking at him. He just stopped.

“The staff started walking towards me, and someone shouted that there was knife, and they stopped. I saw the knife on the floor. I kicked it away and slipped over in the petrol. I was covered in the petrol on the floor.”

Al said Waitrose staff intervened and led a man away to the back of the store, and the woman to a bench.

“I realised I had to go and get Max, it was five past three, and I left and went to the school,” he said. “I told some people there about it and they said I should go back and talk to the police.

“I think it’s the thought about what could have happened that’s scary.

“Lexi was there, just standing behind me.”

After collecting his son from school, Al said he returned to Waitrose to give his details to police at the scene.

“I’ve thought about it a lot,” he said. “I’m glad I stepped in. I didn’t have to do much to break it up. I think something really bad was about to happen so I’m glad I did. I wasn’t trying to be a hero, but I’m glad I stepped in to help her out, because she was an old lady.”

A Waitrose spokesperson said: “We are very thankful that no one was seriously injured and we will be co-operating with the police in their investigation.”

l Sussex Police said this week that Michael Spruhan, 52, of Windmill Copse, Storrington, appeared before Crawley magistrates on Friday charged with attempting to cause grievous bodily harm and arson with intent/reckless as to whether life was endangered.

He did not enter a plea and was remanded in custody to appear at Chichester Crown Court on Friday May 22.