A brave nursery worker, who saved the lives of dozens of children under attack from a machete-wielding man, will receive a ‘Freedom of the City’ honour in Wolverhampton.
Lisa Potts was just 21-years-old on 8 July 1996 when she fought to protect children at St Luke’s Primary School in Wolverhampton from a paranoid schizophrenic armed with a machete.
Four months after the Dunblane massacre, Horrett Campbell, aged 33 at the time, left his flat carrying a machete.
He attacked three mothers waiting outside St Luke's infant’s school before attacking three children and nursery assistant Lisa Potts.
She suffered serious injuries to her head, back, arms and legs, while desperately trying to shield petrified children, some of whom hid under her long skirt.
’I thought the knife was a plastic pirate children's knife'
“It only lasted eight minutes, but it changed the course of my life forever”, says Ms Potts in a speech about that day to nursery staff attending the Early Years Alliance conference in 2019.
A teddy bears' picnic had taken place with some children that had come to the nursery just for the afternoon to get used to nursery life before starting that September.
Ms Potts was getting the children lined up to leave when “from the corner of my eye, I could see this man running alongside the fence. I realised that he was carrying a knife but actually at that split second, I thought the knife was a plastic pirate children’s knife."
The knife was far from plastic and was a machete with the words ‘666 kills the filthy Devils’ written on it.
“All of a sudden I saw this knife come up and hit one of the parents across the head and slump onto the three-foot fence.
“I say this from the bottom of my heart, I just grabbed as many children as I could and ran inside the building. I didn’t really look back at that point.”
When Ms Potts looked outside, she suddenly realised more children were still playing outside and she ran back out to get them. When she was outside, she saw two parents had been hit across the head and were lying on the floor.
I remember 'grabbing and throwing them straight through the door'
“He was coming straight towards me. I think naturally you put your hand up to protect your face and I realised at that point that this was not a plastic knife. He cut me straight across the left arm.
“The next thing, he went straight for the little girl next to me who pretty much stayed by my side as she usually did, and he went straight for her neck.
"I put my hand up to protect her neck he then cut her straight across her face across the ear and across the neck. Just seeing this child’s injury I realised that this was real. I just grabbed her and ran inside with the other children. I literally remember from sheer frantic panic grabbing and throwing them straight through the door.
“I can remember grabbing some more children and as I picked up this little boy. He [Campbell] then cut him straight across the head and straight across my right hand. I just ran inside with him not realising that the man was right behind me.”
'I just remember thinking, I'm not going to get out'
As Ms Potts tried to shut the nursery door, Horrett Campbell’s foot was in the doorway. “I realised I was in a very small area with dressing up clothes and cupboards. I remember trying to pull the door opposite which was really hard as a reception class teacher was holding onto the door.”
Ms Potts’ colleague had 30 children behind her that she was also trying to keep safe. As a result, she would not let go of the door which meant Ms Potts and the children with her were trapped.
"I just remember thinking I’m not going to get out, so I remember I put my arm across the children. There was probably about eight to 10 children there and I pushed them into this dressing up area and he cut me across the back twice.
“I pushed myself around. I pushed all the children around the doorway as fast as I could, when the final blow came and that was the only pain I felt. I felt my neck go back, he hit me straight across the back of the head and fractured my skull.
"I can remember looking back wondering where he was and I could see him putting the knife in his jacket pocket, he jumped the three-foot fence and he was gone.”
Police arrested and charged Horrett Campbell. Campbell was given seven attempts of murder and sent to a mental hospital for an indefinite period in 1997.
In 1997, Ms Potts was awarded The George medal for bravery in recognition of her heroic response.
Ms Potts left St Luke’s and set up a charity Believe to Achieve. This charity was set up to help children and young people through counselling.
In a report to members, Wolverhampton council’s chief operating officer David Pattison said: “Lisa still keeps in touch with many of the children and has supported them through the years. In 2001 she founded a charity, Believe To Achieve, based in schools in Wolverhampton.
“She retrained as an adult nurse at Wolverhampton University and then went on to become a specialist public health nurse.
“Local authorities may grant Freedom of the City or Freedom of Entry. The former is given to ‘persons of distinction and any persons who have rendered eminent services to the city’.
It is the highest honour a city can bestow and the recipient is then referred to as ‘freeman’.
This article is reported on daynurseries.co.uk
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