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Councillor Royston Smith disarms homicidal sailor


The shooting which killed one officer and injured another on HMS Astute saddened us, but we were heartened by the actions of Cllr Royston Smith, the leader of Southampton City Council, who was on board when the shooting broke out. His RAF training appears to have stood him in good stead. He quickly understood the shooting was no training exercise, and decided to act.

He told the Telegraph -

"The gunman. . .appeared with all his gear on which didn't alarm me in itself," he said.

"He then stepped back a couple of steps and disappeared from view again. That was when he fired the first couple of shots which I heard ring out.

"He came back into the control room and he fired the third and fourth shots. They were reasonably close and I heard a hiss which meant one had flown just passed me."

Mr Smith, who was a non-commissioned officer in the RAF, added: "There was a lot of blood, it really wasn't nice – I thought he was going to kill all of us."

"I then took the decision that if that bullet hadn't hit me, one was about to and, if not me, anyone and everyone else.

"I charged at him, pushed him against the wall and, at the same time got hold of his weapon. At that point I think he fired shot number five. We had a tussle and I think I was shouting quite a lot. My instinct was to make myself scary.

"I spun him 180 degrees and charged him against the other wall which I think we hit quite hard. I think it was around this time that shot number six went off.

Mr Smith, who suffered bruises to his legs and back and a cut to his head, but did not require medical treatment, said he managed to pull the rifle away and throw it out of the gunman's reach.

As other dignitaries stood around him in shock, Royston yelled for Alistair Neill, the city council chief executive, to help.

He added: "I shouted for Alistair to get on top of the gunman because he was thrashing around – he wasn't going to take it lying down". . .

Afterwards, Royston denied he was a hero.

Drawing on literature and history, Rodney Brooke has written a brilliant book called The councillor - victim or vulgarian. Brooke deplores the caricature of the councillor as pompous and self-seeking, while admitting there was and is some truth to it. Royston Smith may have singlehandedly changed the public's perception of councillors. He has saved lives.

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