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Knife terror: Man in court; Police used stun gun to rescue hostage.

Byline: By Mark Cowan CRIME CORRESPONDENT

A MAN was today appearing in court accused of threatening to kill an innocent teenager on a Birmingham street.

He was charged with a string of offences after a 19-year-old bus passenger was held at knifepoint, as shown in dramatic pictures taken by a Birmingham Mail reader.

Andrew James Downes, aged 28, from Northfield, is accused of holding a ten-inch blade to the woman's throat after she was dragged from a bus queue outside Bargains Galore, on the Bristol Road South, Northfield.

The terrified hostage, grabbed from behind, was rescued when police officers blasted her blood-soaked attacker with a 50,000-volt Taser stun gun.

Police chiefs today launched an internal investigation into the use of the Taser as the suspect appeared in court.

Downes was appearing before Birmingham magistrates charged with threats to kill, false imprisonment and having an offensive weapon.

He was also facing charges of assault, two further counts of attempted wounding and affray in connection with the attack on Sunday afternoon.

Police had been called to Chatham Road, Northfield, at about 2.30pm following reports of a man armed with a knife, amid fears he could harm himself.

When officers arrived the suspect fled to nearby Bristol Road South where the innocent teenager became caught up in the drama. Police were kept at bay for more than ten minutes as they desperately tried to diffuse the situation and rescue the victim.

The hostage drama was captured on camera by Birmingham Mail reader Peter Grego, who was among the passers-by who witnessed the stand-off with police.

Mr Grego said: "It was horrific - far worse than the images actually show.

"The blade was about ten inches long and digging really deeply into the girl's neck. She looked really terrified. There was blood dripping from the man's mouth as if he had taken a bite out of her neck.

"There were about 20 officers there and I saw two desperately trying to talk him round and let the girl go. I have never seen anything like it."

Another witness, Matthew Mitter, said: "Every time the police went forward to try to stop him he threatened to kill the girl. It was scary."

Eventually police leapt in to disarm the assailant after hitting him with the stun gun.

The victim was unharmed but left shocked by the ordeal. She was later allowed home after a hospital check-up and was today being supported by relatives. She has not been named.

A police spokesman confirmed officers had used a stun gun.

"The matter has been referred to the force's Professional Standards Department as a matter of routine as it involved the discharging of a firearm," he added.

DO you know the young woman who was taken hostage? Ring the Birmingham Mail news desk on 0121 234 5411 or email andy_richards@mrn.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

DRAMA... a woman is seized in the incident.' FIRST WITH THE NEWS AGAIN ... yesterday's Birmingham Mail.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Apr 25, 2006
Words:495
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