On Friday evening around 10:30 pm local time a group of three men wearing balaclavas (face masks) stormed a Mereyside Police helicopter parked at R.A.F. Base Woodvale. The vandals smashed a window on the helicopter, poured fuel inside and attempted to torch it before being interrupted by officers on the base.
This is the third such attack on a police helicopter in the U.K. in about as many months.
The incident Friday sparked an intense high speed 16 mile chase, that ended with one police car in flames and three suspects in custody. A second police helicopter from another police force assisted in the search for the suspects, the pursuit, and ultimately the arrest.
The Mereyside Police helicopter that was attacked is an EC 135 valued at approximately 2.9 million Euros. The Euro Copter 135 is by far the most popular police helicopter in the U.K.
Shortly after the incident a Mitsubishi Shogun ,which was suspected of being involved, was found in flames. At about the same time a silver Audi A4 was observed leaving the vicinity at a high rate of speed. Police gave chase and followed the car from the Southport area to the Liverpool City Center where the vehicle was abandoned in the Birkenhead Tunnel. Subsequently a black Audi A8 sped out of the opposite side of the tunnel where upon the pursuit continued.
The black Audi eventually collided with a police vehicle on upper Hampton St., cause the police vehicle to burst into flames. The officer was able to escape the burning vehicle with minor injuries. Three male suspects, ages 24, 25 and 26 were arrested and booked into jail.
Police Superintendent Jonathan Roy reassured the public that "highly effective air support was maintained throughout the operation." It was only a few weeks ago that another police helicopter was grounded due to a fake bomb, while robbers used their own helicopter to carry out the heist of a money depot.
Mereyside Police is the territorial police force in North West England serving a population of approximately 1.5 million people.
So far police have not speculated on a motive for the attack but vow to conduct a far reaching investigation that leaves no stone unturned.
Sources: Champion News, The Southport Visiter, The Liverpool Daily Post, Wikipedia.org.