A STUDENT PRIEST
confronted by an armed man in Northampton Cathedral last weekend has told the Catholic Herald of his ordeal.
Over 30 police officers surrounded the Cathedral of Our Lady and St Thomas on Friday afternoon after a 39year-old Northampton man, a non-Catholic, went to the Cathedral for spiritual guidance then threatened to shoot himself with a shotgun.
Gareth Forster, 23, a third year student priest, was told by the man of his intent to kill his wife after a row between them on Friday morning. Mr Forster alerted police because he feared for the life of the man's wife. The man, formerly in residential psychiatric care and known to the police as very dangerous and violent, gave himself up early on Sunday morning. No shots were fired.
Mr Forster said: "I just had to act as calmly and professionally as possible. At first I thought he was a man of the road because he was quite scruffy. The housekeeper would not let him in but what he told me was very disturbing. It was a cry for help so I took him into the Cathedral."
Mr Forster made sure that they were monitored on close circuit TV and called the police. At no time was he held at gun-point. "We can't praise the police enough. It was like a war zone out there."
The Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Edward Crew described the siege and negotiations with the man over the weekend as "a textbook operation".
Local residents were not evacuated, but were asked to remain in their homes. Others were housed in local schools as they waited for the all clear to return home. Traffic was diverted and weekend Masses were rescheduled to nearby St Aidan's. Fr Kenneth Payne, administrator at the Cathedral, said: "It was a very odd weekend."
"I've never had to deal with such a complicated case in my career," Mr Forster added. "We iust want to get some normality back to the parish." Mr Forster spent the rest of the week on retreat.