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Sunday 17 December 2017

Businessman who helped overpower France train gunman 'thought he was going to die'

In this image made from TV, Chris Norman, the Briton who helped overpower high-speed train attacker talks to the media early Saturday Aug. 22, 2015, in Arras, France, explaining the blood stains on his shirt. (AP Photo /APTN)
In this image made from TV, Chris Norman, the Briton who helped overpower high-speed train attacker talks to the media early Saturday Aug. 22, 2015, in Arras, France, explaining the blood stains on his shirt. (AP Photo /APTN)
In this image made from TV, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, and Briton Chris Norman, right, who both helped overpower high-speed train attacker, talk to the media early Saturday Aug. 22, 2015, in Arras, France. (AP Photo /APTN)
BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Handout photo issued by Arras City Hall of (left-right) Sacramento State University student Anthony Sadler, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and British consultant Chris Norman during a press conference at Arras City Hall, France, after they overpowered a gunman on a train in France. Frederic Leturque/Mayor of the Town of Arras/PA Wire

Helen William and Dominic Harris

A British businessman said he helped three Americans overpower a gunman who opened fire on a train because he thought he was "probably going to die anyway".

IT consultant Chris Norman, 62, said he knew he was facing a terror attack "the moment that I stood up and saw a guy with an AK-47" on the Amsterdam-Paris train.

Mr Norman, a married grandfather-of-two, told a press conference in Arras, France: "My thought was 'OK I am probably going to die anyway so let's go'. I would rather die being active, trying to get him down than simply sit in the corner and be shot."

Mr Norman helped fellow hero passengers including US Air Force serviceman Spencer Stone, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and Sacramento State University student Anthony Sadler to tackle the gunman, who was armed with an AK-47 and a handgun.

Mr Stone and Mr Skarlatos grabbed the man to bring him under control while Mr Sadler and Mr Norman joined them to help.

French rail firm SNCF said there were 554 people on board.

In this photo made early Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, image obtained from the Facebook webpage of the mayor of Arras, Fredric Leturque, sits with passengers of the Thalys train who subdued a gunman as they display their medal after being awarded by the mayor of Arras, northern France, with left to right, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Briton Chris Norman. (Arras City Hall via AP) MANDATORIT CREDIT
In this photo made early Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, image obtained from the Facebook webpage of the mayor of Arras, Fredric Leturque, sits with passengers of the Thalys train who subdued a gunman as they display their medal after being awarded by the mayor of Arras, northern France, with left to right, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Briton Chris Norman. (Arras City Hall via AP) MANDATORIT CREDIT

Mr Norman, who lives in France, was facing towards the back of the train when he heard "glass breaking and then saw somebody running down the aisle to the front of the train".

He told reporters: "I saw a man with what I think was an AK-47, anyway it was some kind of a machine gun or a sub-machine gun.

"My first reaction was to sit down and hide. Then I heard one guy, an American say 'go get him'. Then I heard another American say 'don't you do that buddy' or something like that.

"Then I decided that perhaps this was the only chance for us to act as a team and try to take over.

BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE
Handout photo issued by Arras City Hall of (left-right) Sacramento State University student Anthony Sadler, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and British consultant Chris Norman during a press conference at Arras City Hall, France, after they overpowered a gunman on a train in France. Frederic Leturque/Mayor of the Town of Arras/PA Wire
BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Handout photo issued by Arras City Hall of (left-right) Sacramento State University student Anthony Sadler, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos and British consultant Chris Norman during a press conference at Arras City Hall, France, after they overpowered a gunman on a train in France. Frederic Leturque/Mayor of the Town of Arras/PA Wire

"I jumped up and I was the fourth person to begin working on the terrorist."

No one had any real time to think about the danger they faced, according to Mr Norman, who described the passengers' reactions as "very rapid reasoning".

Mr Norman noted: "He had a Kalashnikov. He had a magazine full. I do not know how many magazines he had."

Earlier Mr Norman said that Mr Skarlatos had jumped up to help Mr Spencer who was followed immediately by Mr Sadler.

(L-R) Three men who helped to disarm an attacker on a train from Amsterdam to France, Anthony Sadler, from Pittsburg, California, Aleck Sharlatos from Roseburg, Oregon, and Chris Norman, a British man living in France, pose with medals they received for their bravery at a restaurant in Arras, France August 22, 2015. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
(L-R) Three men who helped to disarm an attacker on a train from Amsterdam to France, Anthony Sadler, from Pittsburg, California, Aleck Sharlatos from Roseburg, Oregon, and Chris Norman, a British man living in France, pose with medals they received for their bravery at a restaurant in Arras, France August 22, 2015. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Mr Norman was the next person on the scene to help tackle the gunman.

He said: "We ended up by tying him up, then during the process the guy actually pulled out a cutter and starting cutting Spencer.

"He cut Spencer behind the neck, he nearly cut his thumb off too. Spencer held him and we eventually got him under control. He went unconscious, I think."

French authorities said three people were injured, two of them seriously - one with a gunshot wound, the other a knife wound.

Mr Stone was said to be "in good spirits" and "doing great" as he recovers in hospital.

In this photo made early Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, image obtained from the Facebook webpage of the mayor of Arras, Fredric Leturque, passengers of the Thalys train who subdued a gunman sit together in Arras, northern France, with left to right, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Briton Chris Norman. (Arras City Hall via AP) MANDATORIT CREDIT
In this photo made early Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, image obtained from the Facebook webpage of the mayor of Arras, Fredric Leturque, passengers of the Thalys train who subdued a gunman sit together in Arras, northern France, with left to right, Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento State University, Alek Skarlatos, US National Guardsman from Roseburg, Oregon, Briton Chris Norman. (Arras City Hall via AP) MANDATORIT CREDIT

Mr Skarlatos said: "Spencer ran a good 10 metres to get to the guy and we didn't know that his gun wasn't working or anything like that.

"Spencer just ran anyway and if anybody would have gotten shot it would have been Spencer for sure and we are very lucky that nobody got killed, especially Spencer."

Mr Sadler added: "I'm just a college student, it's my last year in college, I came to see my friends on my first trip in Europe and we stopped a terrorist, it's kind of crazy."

Mr Norman and the two uninjured Americans were awarded a bravery medal from the local mayor.

The White House also praised their actions as having helped prevent "a far worse tragedy" while a No 10 spokesman said the Prime Minister praised "the extraordinary courage of the passengers who intervened and helped disarm the gunman".

Mr Stone was the first to challenge the gunman and grabbed him by the neck.

Mr Skarlatos told Sky News: "I grabbed the handgun, got the handgun away from the guy and threw it. Then I grabbed the AK which was at his feet and started muzzle-thumping him in the head with it.

"Everybody just started beating on the guy while Spencer held the choke hold, until he went unconscious at that point. People started to restrain him."

Mr Skarlatos picked up the AK-47 and checked the other carriages in case there was another gunman.

Mr Skarlatos returned to carriage 12, where it all started, cleared the weapons and put them in a pile.

He told Sky News: "I noticed when I removed the round in the chamber of the AK that the primer had been struck, which means he pulled the trigger on the AK.

"The primer was just faulty, so the gun did not go off, luckily, and he did not know how to fix it, which was also very lucky.

"When I cleared the handgun I also noticed that there was no magazine in it - so he had either dropped it accidentally or did not load it properly. He was only able to get what appeared to be one shot off with the handgun."

Mr Skarlatos had returned from a deployment in Afghanistan in July with the National Guard, his stepmother Karen Skarlatos said.

She described the US passengers who helped as "big, strong, brave guys and they love their country and they are both in the military and they are prepared, and so it doesn't surprise us that they were capable of doing this."

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the suspect's identity had yet to be confirmed, but it was believed that he had radical Islamist beliefs. A 26-year-old Moroccan man was arrested and anti-terror police are leading the investigation.

French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, the star of Betty Blue and Nikita, was among the passengers who was lightly wounded breaking glass to sound the alarm.

In an interview with Paris Match magazine Mr Anglade said train staff entered a private cabin and locked it when they heard gunshots, leaving the passengers alone.

He said: "I really could see us all dying because we were all prisoners in that train, it would have been impossible to escape from that nightmare."

Press Association

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