A Cornwall councillor has spoken about how he felt “let down” by a lack of support from Cornwall Council when dealing with the aftermath of the tragic stabbing incident in Bodmin which left one man dead and several others hospitalised in April.
In an emotive speech, Leigh Frost said he had “no support” from the council when faced with an overwhelming “bombardment” of calls for information and help from residents and media.
Michael Allen, 32, originally from Liskeard, was pronounced dead near the Eclipse nightclub following a knife attack at Victoria Square on Castle Canyke Road, Bodmin, at around 3.15am on Sunday, April 30. Seven other people were taken to hospital for treatment to injuries.
Jake Hill, 24, from Jubilee Terrace in Bodmin, was remanded in custody until May 30 for a pre-trial review after being charged with one count of murder, three counts of attempted murder and two other counts of Section 18 causing grievous bodily harm with intent at Truro Crown Court on May 5. A trial date has been set for November 6.
At a meeting of Cornwall Council at Lys Kernow (New County Hall) in Truro yesterday (Tuesday, May 23), Cllr Frost spoke of his disappointment at not receiving any support from the council during and after the tragic event in his division.
The Liberal Democrat councillor told fellow members: “On April 30 in Bodmin a man was tragically killed by stabbing and seven others hospitalised. I woke up that morning to 45 text messages. I went on social media and there was a rumour mill of everything going on – I had text after text from people asking me what was going on.
“Obviously being the divisional member and knowing a lot of people in that area I knew exactly what had happened because I had friends that witnessed it. I put a post up on Facebook because there was nothing – there was a vacuum – just to say let the police do their investigation and my thoughts were with the victims. From then on until Tuesday lunchtime I had bombardments of residents, national media, local media, consistently asking questions … I had LBC [a London radio station] turn up at my work for an interview.
“During that whole time, outside of my [political] group, I had one email from Cllr [Peter] Guest asking me if I was alright and a phone call from my CLO [community link officer]. That was it. I had nothing. I had to deal with this all on my own as the local member. I had the town council asking where to put people for support. I had people asking me where I could send them for support.
“I emailed the chief executive [Kate Kennally] on the Bank Holiday Monday and to her credit she emailed me straight back with information, but that was the only correspondence I had during this tragic event … and this was a major event. A split second’s difference and it could have been three or four dead not just one – and I was left to face all of it on my own.
“It’s led me to think how let down I was by the council. I had no support, there was nothing in place. I brought this up and to [the council’s head of resilient communities] Simon Mould’s credit he’s creating a policy to ensure this never happens again.”
An emotional Cllr Frost added: “The more I think about it I realise that in my time as a councillor I’ve had to talk two people down from suicidal positions, I’ve had to deal with grown men breaking down in tears because they don’t know where they’re going to live tomorrow. I’m not professionally trained, I have no support and I’m sure every single member here has had to deal with an incident like that and yet there is nothing to help us.
“There was not even a phone call from Cornwall Council to say ‘are you alright?’ I dealt with it, I handled it, I’m fine. I’m not saying I needed anything but some members might. I think it’s really important that that provision is given, so I’m asking the leader could you please give me assurances that the policy that Simon Mould is working on will not fall by the wayside and it is looked into that actual support is given to councillors because we just don’t get enough pastoral care.”
The councillor’s speech was greeted by applause from fellow members. Council leader Linda Taylor replied: “Can I give you my 100% assurances that this is not going to fall by the wayside, it’s too important. Society is changing and we need to be well-equipped and have those resources behind us to support.”
Andy Virr, portfolio holder for adults and public health, thanked Cllr Frost for all the work he did for the community during the tragic incident. “Your situation was recently raised at the Safer Cornwall Partnership meeting and it was acknowledged the extraordinary work you did with the community. We can often help by being that link between the police and our communities.
“The good news is for most people what you describe as having supportive conversations is actually what people normally need, so I would encourage each other to be bold enough to ask the question ‘how are you and what can I do to help?’ That’s often all that’s required for people involved in traumatic events.”