Ordinary city workers were turned into instant heroes when they subdued a knife-wielding attacker during a stabbing rampage in central Sydney on Tuesday.
British brothers Paul and Luke O’Shaughnessy and their friend Lee Cuthbert, as well as pursuing firefighters armed with axes and a middle-aged businessman brandishing a chair all stepped up to restrain the alleged attacker, 21-year-old Mert Ney.
Mr Cuthbert and the O’Shaughnessy brothers, all from Manchester, tackled the man and pinned his head to the ground with a milk crate until police arrived to make their arrest.
The three British colleagues – who work at a recruitment agency around the corner from where the dramatic incident unfolded on Clarence Street – described how they raced from their fourth-floor office to the street.
They described the brave moment they apprehended the suspect as being down to ‘instinct’.
Pictured: Accused knifeman Mert Ney, 21, pinned down with a milk crate after being chased by firefighters and British recruiters who heard commotion from their office
Mystery businessman: A brave middle-aged man (right) holding a wicker chair tried to stop the knifeman (left) early in his rampage
‘We’ve opened the window and seen the guy wielding a knife and jumping on the bonnet of a nearby car,’ said Paul O’Shaughnessy, 37, a former midfielder with English League One club Bury between 1999 and 2004.
Convinced it was a terrorist attack, his brother Luke – a champion Muay Thai boxer – led the chase.
‘We all just ran down the building and chased him down the street,’ said Mr Cuthbert.
‘Everyone was kind of panicking, no one really knew what was happening,’ he said. ‘Not your normal Tuesday afternoon.’
Mr Cuthbert said Luke, with the help of another man, ‘managed to get him down on to the floor and pin him down’ with chairs and a plastic crate before police arrived.
‘My brother and I just ran across here, these boys followed, and we managed to get a grip with him and another guy.
Heroes: British recruiters Lee Cuthbert (left), Paul O’Shaughnessy (middle) and Alex Roberts (right) chased after the attacker
Paul’s brother Luke O’Shaughnessy (pictured) was the man who pinned the attacker down
Brother Luke, 30, said: ‘I just wanted to make sure he couldn’t hurt anyone else.
‘We’ve talked before about what we would do when we hear about these things happening around the world.
‘We’re the kind of guys who ask questions later and act on instinct. If it happened again I would do it again and act quicker.’
The pair, who run digital talent agency MAP Talent, were in their office on York Street when the drama unfolded at around 3.15pm local time (6.15am BST).
Firefighters who happened upon the scene as they returned from a house fire, gave chase to the alleged attacker- some carrying axes – and also assisted with restraining him.
An angered bystander was seen in video footage screaming at the alleged attacker, but the firefighter managed to calm him down while they waiting for police to arrive.
‘Stop, stop, stop!’ the fireman said, while pushing the bystander away from the attacker, who was pinned under a milk crate and a chair.
A firefighter armed with an axe (pictured) also helped the group of British men hold down the attacker. He was filmed calming down an angered bystander
Firefighters armed with axes were also quick on the scene, where they were filmed assisting with restraining the alleged attacker
Earlier, gripping video showed a brave businessman holding a wicker chair approach the attacker in the middle of the intersection.
The man – who had not been identified – held the chair up to his chest and moved toward the alleged attacker, forcing him to back off.
‘Oi,’ the businessman yelled, ready with the cafe chair.
‘Shoot me, shoot me in the f***ing head,’ the knifeman yelled as he stood on top of an Uber driver’s Mercedes, before the driver took off.
After the alleged attacker’s face was pinned down by Luke and Paul O’Shaughnessy with a milk crate, the businessman could be seen placing the wicker chair over his body to keep him from escaping.
Police Commissioner Mick Fuller praised all those involved in subduing and detaining the knifeman.
Police later arrested 21-year-old suspect Mert Ney from Clarence Street on Tuesday
‘It’s funny I thought to myself last night that 20 years ago I would have been praising all these people but probably warning the public not to get engaged, but I think the world’s changed now,’ Commissioner Fuller said on 2GB on Wednesday morning.
‘From a police perspective, we appreciate all the help we can get.
‘From the vision you see, there were a number of people that were distracting him – they saved lives’.
‘Then there was those three people who restrained him until police arrived – they saved lives, there’s no doubting that’.
‘Sometimes we throw the word “hero” around, but they are true heroes’.
How the Sydney CBD rampage unfolded
2pm Police receive calls about a man armed with a knife and wearing a balaclava wandering York Street in Sydney’s CBD.
Officers arrive to find a 41-year-old woman suffering a stab wound at the Hotel CBD on the corner of King and York Streets.
A short time later, three members of the public detain the 21-year-old attacker, before he’s arrested by police.
3.15pm The body of a 21-year-old woman is found in a Clarence Street unit.
* Police investigate whether the body is linked to the earlier stabbing.
5.30pm NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller confirms the two crimes are linked and reveals the alleged attacker – 21-year-old Mert Ney – has a history of mental health issues.
Police say the Marayong man has no links to terrorist organisations but does have some ‘ideologies in relation to terrorism’.
Ney was allegedly carrying material ‘about other crimes of mass casualties and mass deaths around the world’, the commissioner says.
Detectives conduct a thorough search of Ney’s western Sydney home.