A police officer has won a national award for valour for single-handedly apprehending a murderer in a Borders supermarket car park.
Ross Falconer, an acting sergeant at the time, came across the killer by chance after popping into Tesco in Peebles for a drink during a shift in the town on August 6, 2017.
The 39-year-old, a constable usually based at Musselburgh in East Lothian, spotted Nicholas Rogers, 28, and a woman arguing at the Dovecot Road store and, just seconds later, heard a radio message reporting that a woman had been stabbed to death in nearby Cuddyside.
Deducing that Rogers had been involved in the murder of postwoman Alex Stuart, 22, and was attempting to flee, Mr Falconer decided to tackle him, and a struggle ensued.
Rogers, drunk at the time, repeatedly threatening to kill him, but Mr Falconer managed to get him under control prior to back-up arriving.
That act of courage has led to Mr Falconer being named overall winner at this year’s Scottish Police Federation Bravery Awards after being nominated by colleagues.
The father of two said: “It was completely coincidental that I happened to have gone to buy a bottle of juice at the exact moment that this male was at Tesco.
“It was really just a case of me being in the right place at the right time.
“At that point, I didn’t know if the male was still in possession of a knife.
“His intention was to escape. That was clear from messages he had sent his girlfriend. If he had managed to drive away, there would have been a serious manhunt for a very dangerous individual which could’ve gone on for a long time and put members of the public and police officers at extreme risk.
“My concern at the time was that the male was armed and he might attempt to stab either myself or someone else.
“I tried to speak to him. However, he was extremely aggressive.
“I managed to get one hand cuffed, but he was able to grab hold of me by the top of my vest and began to struggle with me.
“He tried to take me towards the ground.
“I managed to secure the male in handcuffs, and a few seconds later I heard the sirens as my colleagues drove into the car park, much to my relief.
“I made the decision to approach the male and handcuff him because it’s my duty as a police officer to protect the public.
“I knew there was possibly significant risk to myself. However, I felt that my duty as an officer outweighs any risk to myself.
“I’m not ashamed to admit that I was very scared in that situation, but, as far as I could see, there was no alternative.
“If I hadn’t been there, I think he could definitely have attacked other people, certainly in the frame of mind he was in, having carried out a brutal attack on someone not really known to him.”
“It was a particularly violent attack. He was clearly very angry.
“If I hadn’t acted, then we would have a very dangerous man roaming the streets.
“I’m proud to do the job. It’s a job I’ve always wanted to do.
“I am a dad myself, and I did meet the victim’s family very briefly after the incident and I saw what an effect it had had on them.
“I’d hate to think of myself in that situation. It must’ve been horrific, obviously for Alex but also for her whole family.”
Scottish Government justice secretary Humza Yousaf presented Mr Falconer with his award at a ceremony in Edinburgh last Thursday, November 28, saying: “My thoughts are with the family of Alex Stuart, who died during an incident in Peebles.
“Unfortunately, police officers face this kind of violence and risk in the course of protecting the public, but they all show tremendous courage in dealing with it professionally.
“Their thoughts are often not of their own safety but to keep communities safe and help people in times of danger and distress.
“These awards are an important way to commend the actions of officers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.
“Each incident is an example of the professionalism and dedication I see throughout Police Scotland.
“I am grateful for the efforts of all the officers involved.”
Andrea MacDonald, chairperson of the Scottish Police Federation, added: “All the winners this year are a credit to the service, and it was my privilege to thank them for their heroic actions on behalf of their colleagues, families, friends and the general public.
“Much has changed in Scotland’s policing landscape in recent times, with new and unprecedented challenges facing officers on a daily basis, but what remains the same is the dedication and bravery of the men and women who put on their uniform every day and go out to do their duty, keeping the citizens of Scotland safe.”