Mother honoured for breaking up a brawl
A self-confessed "short, dumpy woman" who single-handedly prevented a mass brawl on a Westcountry train is to be honoured with a bravery award later today.
British Transport Police (BTP) said hairdresser Naomi Spencer, from Crediton, had put herself "at considerable risk" after stepping in to stop two groups from fighting on a busy commuter service bound for Barnstaple in October 2010.
The 45-year-old will be presented with a "certificate of commendation" by Chief Constable Andrew Trotter at a ceremony in London this afternoon. British Transport Police said the rival factions had clashed earlier in the day in a pub in Exeter over a historic murder.
After being split up by police, both groups then later caught the same train. Tensions flared after the 5pm service left Exeter St David's station. Ms Spencer, who was returning home from her job at Headstart in Exeter, said she stepped in when one man entered the carriage she was in and began provoking six members of the rival group.
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She said: "The six lads started having a go back at this other one lad who was already covered in blood from the earlier fight.
"Okay, he'd had a go at them but I didn't really care about what had gone on beforehand. I just thought, 'Six against one? That's not on.'
"There was a lot of swearing and bad language. I'm a single mum and I thought I can't let this happen on a busy train. A lot of the passengers seemed worried about what might happen.
"It was out of order so I told them to pack it in and I gave them clear instructions that I wanted them to stay apart. I just wanted everyone on the train to be safe. I think if I would have ignored things, the situation would have got far worse.
"I'm a short, dumpy woman but I just gave them a 'mum' look and told them to stop messing around. I just wanted to get home – as did everyone else on the train. It was a Friday evening, I was tired and I just wanted it to stop."
During the incident, the train driver was given permission to reverse the train back into Exeter St David's station so that it could be met by BTP officers who dealt with those involved.
"I didn't really think about what I was doing at the time," Ms Spencer added. "I just thought, I'm a mum and I have a son – if he was in this position, I'd hope that someone would do the same as me and stop the situation from escalating."
Certificates of commendation are awarded to officers, railway staff and members of the public who have shown "zeal, courage, professionalism and resourcefulness in the policing of the railway and the prevention and detection of crime".
Mr Trotter said: "I am very pleased to be able to present Naomi with such a prestigious award for her incredibly brave actions."