Two brothers who left police officers fearing they would die as they launched a frenzied knife attack on them in a busy shopping center have been jailed. Hero officers James Willetts and Leon Mittoo were slashed in the face and head as they tried to tackle Parminder Hunjan, 37, and Maninder Hunjan, 26, and protect shoppers during a terrifying broad daylight attack.
The courageous cops sprang into action when a kitchen knife was pulled on them as they desperately tried to get other shoppers, including children, out of harm’s way with no thought for their own safety. The officers were patrolling New Square shopping center in West Bromwich when they tried to stop the brothers, having become suspicious of their heavy clothing and large backpacks which seemed unusual as temperatures soared towards 30C last July.
When the brothers failed to stop, the officers chased after them. The situation then took a horrifying turn as the large knife was pulled from the bag by Parminder.
The brothers were “armed to the teeth” in the busy shopping center at 11am on a Wednesday. The bags they were carrying were filled with deadly weapons – including a machete, hammer and an imitation gun.
Pc Willetts recalled how “one of the men ran towards me screaming, brandishing something and swinging around erratically”. The officers were slashed as they tackled and attempted to restrain the brothers as they swung the knives wildly.
A witness described seeing Maninder trying to stab Pc Willetts to the head at least three times. Frightened shoppers ran for safety while shop owners hurriedly closed their shutters amid the chaos.
The two officers feared they would “bleed out in minutes” following the “sustained and vicious” attack, a trial previously heard. The Hunjans were first spotted outside Boots carrying large black backpacks and wearing thick coats and headed towards New Square via an escalator.
PC Mittoo decided to search the pair under the Section 60 order in place, allowing officers to search people without reasonable grounds. As they came under attack, the officer deployed his Parva spray to try to disarm Parminder, who initially dropped the object back into his bag. But he got back up and began lunging recklessly at the officer with a knife in his hand.
Despite bleeding from their wounds, both heroic officers managed to remain calm and keep the public safe while detaining the brothers. PC Mittoo suffered a slash wound to his forehead and hand, as well as cuts and scratches.
Maninder also slashed Pc Willetts with a knife and the wound was later glued at hospital. Bodycam footage showed the wounded officer slumped on the ground bleeding heavily as colleagues rushed to his aid.
Shoppers “thought it was a terrorist incident”, prosecutor Serena Gates told Wolverhampton Crown Court during a sentencing hearing today. Judge Michael Chambers said he believed the brothers planned to commit a “violent criminal offence” due to the “multiplicity of dangerous weapons and anonymous clothing” but added he did not believe their intentions that day were terror-related.
Parminder Hunjan was jailed for 10 years and brother Maninder for eight years over their shocking attack. Both were given extended sentences due to them being considered dangerous offenders, meaning they will serve a four-year license period once they have been released.
Both were previously found guilty of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm in relation to Pc Willetts and possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. Parminder was convicted of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm in relation to Pc Mittoo but Maninder was cleared.
Jurors cleared the brothers of attempted murder. They had previously admitted possessing offensive weapons. The court heard how both brothers had gone to university and completed degrees but in recent years had largely drawn from society and lived “socially isolated” lives.
Judge Chambers said: “This is an extremely serious and worrying case. It involved a sustained and vicious attack, with the two of you, working together, using knives against police officers, looking to cause them really serious harm. It revealed and frustrated your criminal plan for serious violence using dangerous weapons.”
The judge added: “It is quite fortuitous the injuries the officers sustained were not more serious. This was in the main due to them wearing stab protective vests.”