Brave police officer shot twice by terrorists but kept on the radio to HQ to guide his colleagues

A last minute change of shift turned into a Great Escape for a young PC, when a routine stop led to a chase across three Police Force areas.

And the brave young officer ended up dodging bullets when he unwittingly apprehended three terrorists, who had planted the infamous bombs at Warrington Gas Works on February 25 1993.

Overtime nearly got him killed

PC  Mark Toker, then aged 25, had done a 2pm to 10pm shift, and was disgruntled when he was asked to stay on and do overtime. Most of the local officers were at a function that night, so staffing was short.

At 11pm when PC Toker set off from Great Sankey Police Station to patrol the sleepy streets, little did he know that his shift would end in one of the most frightening incidents in the town’s history.

Suspicious Vehicle

As he drove along the empty streets towards the town centre he passed the Crosfield’s factory. He dropped down over the railway bridge towards the traffic lights at the junction of Wilson Patten Street and Sankey Street, where he noticed a white/pale yellow Mazda transit van stationary at the lights… even though they were on green.

The lights changed to red and he pulled up behind the van. As the lights changed to green again, the van still didn’t move. Now PC  Toker  had a reputation  being a bit lenient with drink drivers ….but his suspicion kicked in,  and he decided to stop the van  just in case.

As the two vehicles made  their way along Sankey Street – he fired up the Police Stop lights, and the van came to a halt by Garven Place.

Probably a stolen van

The diligent young officer got out to do checks on the vehicle, in case the driver had been drinking. At his request the driver – described in the officer’s statement as about 25 with a moustache, dark hair and an Irish accent and smelling of stale tobacco-  gave the officer the van keys. Despite taking the keys out the van, the engine kept running, arousing suspicions for PC Toker that it was a stolen vehicle.

The driver  gave his name as Mark Davies, gave a Nottingham address, but was unable to produce any documents. He was swiftly issued with a HO – RT1 form ( from the officer’s Home Office Road Traffic Book). Details of the passenger – described as 18 to 20 with brown hair and clean shaven – were written on the reverse of the form.

As the officer completed his paperwork he glanced into the darkness of the van rear and saw in the shadows a third person lying flat on the floor. At this point the driver said to the third man  “don’t  worry it’s ok.”

Feeling a bit uneasy PC Toker radioed for  “back-up” not the more urgent call for “assistance” as he knew not many officers were available that night. Had he known the three men had just planted the Gas Works bomb his request may have been quite different!

A gun pointed straight at the officer

Undeterred by the strange stop, the officer opened the back doors of the van where he came face to face with the third man, crouching in the back and pointing a gun at PC Toker’s  head. The  officer described seeing scratches on the underside of the gun as it was pointed towards him, and realising he was in great danger.

Training kicked in and the terrified officer ran away from the van zig-zagging to avoid the bullets heading his way in quick succession

The first one to reach the target hit him in the stomach to the right of his navel causing searing pain throughout his body, but he kept running. A second  Lugar bullet hit his left leg causing him to collapse in Garven Place as the bullet  made its way through his leg, exiting by his ankle.

In great pain but still on the radio

“I was in extreme pain and was frightened I may be hit again,” he said. But the brave officer grabbed his radio which was attached to his lapel and stay on air to give colleagues information to help capture the three men – for this act of bravery he was later  awarded the Queen’s Police Medal.

Alerted by the gunshots a passer-by who had just left a nearby restaurant rushed to his aid,  and luckily for our oficer she was a trained nurse. She started treatment to ease the officer’s pain and protect the wound by removing heavy and tight clothes and equipment, and then alerted other officers who had arrived at the scene.

PC Toker was taken to Warrington Hospital where he received emergency surgery from a team of highly qualified consultants. The young officer recovered well, much to the relief of his colleagues, and after a spell of recovery, he joined the CID team.

In his statement at the time PC Token said: “There is no doubt that the man who shot me was trying to kill me, when he opened fire a mere 10 feet away from me.”

He is now 56, and happily working for British Transport Police, and still keeps in touch with his former colleagues.

Drinkers in the bar of The Tyrol House on Folly Lane (now the Villagio), would never have guessed that the three strangers drinking in the bar were going to play a major role in the town’s history the following day.

The  night before the bombing the three men, stopped by PC Toker are known to have stayed at the venue and no doubt they found a quiet spot to talk about their plans for the Gas Works bombing the next day.

After PC Toker stopped the three in Garven Place, the men in the van drove off with tyres screeching to get away from the scene and police vehicles who would soon be in hot pursuit.

They headed out towards Lymm, intending to use the extensive Motorway network. But they knew their vehicle would be recognised, so at Lymm they stopped a Ford Escort driven by a young male.

How frightened the driver must have been when they bundled him in the car boot and hurtled off to the Motorway.

By this time all available officers had been called in for emergency duty. All roads were closed, the Army Bomb Disposal Unit were requested and the Anti-Terrorist Unit in London alerted.

Meanwhile a high speed police chase involving Manchester, Cheshire and Merseyside Police officers were in pursuit of the car. A storm of bullets were fired from the occupants towards their police pursuers.

Eventually the car was forced to stop and two of the men were arrested.  The third man ran away from the seen, but was later  apprehended.

The  Police Station

Meanwhile at Warrington Police Station Helpdesk, which was then the Control Room for the Major Incident of the night. Head  of the team Superintendent Dave Williams, leaned back in his chair and put up his feet up, grateful that the incident was dealt with.

The three men were arrested, officers were stood down and Supt Williams was relaxed and leading a debrief.

“Well,” he said. “What could possibly go wrong now”

Just at that moment the town rocked as three deafening explosions ripped through the still night air. The bombs, planted by the three men on the Winwick Road Gas Works had gone off.

Three huge explosions

Explosions were seen and heard as far away as Great Sankey, Stockton Heath and Woolston – and the night sky was lit up like daylight. Observers described seeing  great clouds of smoke after the flashlight.

Residents nearby rushed out in their nightwear – with one female pensioner telling the Warrington Guardian the explosion “blew me out of my bed.”

Properties nearby were evacuated and police vans took some people to nearby St Ann’s Primary School where they could rest in safety.

All three men later faced trial at the Old Bailey and the report was included in The London Gazette on 11 June 1994. The men were sentenced to  life,  but were later released as part of The Good Friday Agreement.