A former Russian policeman has been identified as the have-a-go hero who stood in the path of a knife-wielding suspect running from the scene of a stabbing at the Notting Hill carnival.
Holding a Marks & Spencer carrier bag in one hand and his camera in the other, Valentine Simatchenko instinctively stuck out his leg to try to trip up the youth as he dashed past seconds after the attack.
Last night the 55-year-old, who served as an officer in St Petersburg before moving to Britain, proved a reluctant hero, dismissing his intervention as “nothing” and adding that he did not know what the fuss was about.
He did not even tell his family until his picture appeared in several newspapers the next morning.
His intervention in Ladbroke Grove, west London, was captured by a passing photographer as the carnival drew to a close on Monday evening.
The pictures show police drafted in to keep peace in the wake of the London riots seemingly motionless as Mr Simatchenko attempts to stop the suspected attacker. In the background, Rio Andre, a 20-year-old student, is seen gasping in agony and bleeding.
Mr Simatchenko’s son Yuri, a chef who lives 200 yards from his parents’ home along the carnival route, only heard of his father’s bravery the next day when a shopkeeper pointed out the photograph.
“I’m very proud of my father but he was just scared, he didn’t know what was happening,” he said, adding that his father was very modest and shy of the media spotlight.
“The police came to his address after the incident and because he doesn’t speak much English he first thought officers wanted to charge him for the attack.
"He didn’t tell any of us what he had done because he didn’t think he’d done anything special.”
Mr Simatchenko’s wife, Marina, a nurse, said his police training had clearly come into play.
“He worked as a policeman in St Petersburg in the past and such behaviour would have come naturally to him,” she said. She added that he had recently suffered from health problems.
Mr Simatchenko played down his bravery, insisting: “Nothing happened.” He called 999 when he realised police would want to take a statement. He said: “I told them everything I knew and I gave them the memory stick of my camera.”
Born in Ukraine in 1956, he moved to St Petersburg, then known as Leningrad, and worked as a policeman for around five years. He later worked as a warehouse manager and, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, moved to London in 1996 in search of a new life.
Evidently proud of his life in Britain, Mr Simatchenko recently posted photographs on a Russian language website showing him dressed in a Union flag tie and visiting London landmarks. On a visit to Madame Tussauds he posed alongside waxworks of former prime ministers, the Queen and Beyoncé.
- A 16-year-old boy appeared before West London youth court yesterday charged with grievous bodily harm and possession of an offensive.