A POLICE officer who took on three armed men during a pilgrimage to Israel has won a police bravery award.

Det Sgt Richard Burgess, based at Rayleigh, intervened as three Arab men attacked a Jewish man near the site of Oskar Schindler’s grave.

The Echo told last month how the 45-year-old ran at the group – only to find they were armed with a noxious spray, belts and a claw hammer.

He won the top prize for the Eastern region at the national Police Bravery Awards on Thursday. After receiving his award from policing minister Nick Hurd, Mr Burgess said: “I am stunned. I feel very, very humbled to win this award. I’m not very good at accepting praise but I am very flattered to win this award.

“I wasn’t on duty so it was completely unexpected. I didn’t feel any fear, I just did what I feel is my duty really. I don’t like to make a fuss but I’ve had a fantastic day today – one that I will never forget.”

Mr Burgess is studying to become a priest when he retires from the force. His group had just completed their tour and were heading back to the coach when a woman approached and said: “Please help them, please help them.”

Without hesitation, Mr Burgess ran down an alleyway – where he saw the victim’s eyes streaming as if they had been sprayed with a substance. One of the Arab men had a leather belt wrapped around his fist, using the buckle as a weapon. During the struggle, Mr Burgess was struck on the head with a hammer.

Israeli Police informed Mr Burgess the following day that the suspects had been arrested.Two men were convicted of assault in the Jewish courts.

Steve Taylor, chairman of Essex Police Federation, said: “A police officer is never truly off-duty, and it is brave and courageous acts like that of Sgt Burgess that prove that. He put himself in true danger, in a foreign country, because he could see someone in need. He is truly deserving of this award.”