Two Metropolitan Police grooms have received awards from the RSPCA and the force in recognition of the role they played in saving the life of Alamein, the police horse who was severely injured in the riots outside the Millwall football stadium last year.
The actions of Helen Wolski (below center, pictured alongside RSPCA chief inspector Dermot Murphy) and Natasha Streek (below right), two police support staff who have both worked for 8 years, undoubtedly saved the life of Alamein, who had a severed artery in his off-fore.
The incident happened around 1hr after the football match between Millwall and Birmingham ended, while police horses were being used to keep the rival fans apart. A thunderflash — a device which explodes on contact — was thrown at Alamein, causing him to rear up and come down with his front legs through a car windscreen.
“Natasha and I were with the horse box in a car park outside the ground while the riot was going on close by,” explains Helen, who is based at Wandsworth in south London. “We could hear it was getting pretty heated outside, then Alamein and his rider arrived.
“It was dark and very noisy but even working by torchlight it was obviously he was seriously injured — there was blood everywhere. In fact there was so much blood that we couldn’t tell where the injury was until we had sluiced his legs down with buckets of water.
“Once we realised it was a damaged artery we knew we had to stop the bleeding quickly so we grabbed some field dressings from a nearby ambulance and bandaged them in place. That stemmed the bleeding so we could get him back to the stables where a vet was waiting to see him.”
Alamein made an amazing recovery, returning to full duties within four weeks of the riots after convalescing at the Metropolitan Police’s Imber Court training centre.
“Alamein has got the most fantastic temperament,” says Helen. “He really was the perfect patient, both outside the stadium, and after we got him back to the yard. The injury has healed so well you can hardly see where it was.”
Helen was delighted to receive the awards and told HHO she believed it was important that the efforts of support staff like herself were recognised, especially as 2 May 2002 was the most challenging incident she has had to deal with during her time with the police to date.
“I have attended many football matches and ceremonial occasions, and that was definitely the worst, but it wasn’t until after it was all over that I realised what we had had to deal with,” she explains. “While it’s happening you’re too busy looking after the horses to think about anything else. They are your number one priority.”