An Australian reporter who was grabbed by a stranger during a live TV cross from London protests said the ordeal felt like “a life or death scenario”.
Channel Nine’s Europe correspondent Sophie Walsh was reporting back to the network’s Adelaide bureau on Wednesday evening (Australian time). She suddenly began screaming while footage of protests rolled as overlay on screen.
“Sorry, I just had someone come up to me and try and yeah...” Walsh trailed off, visibly panicked as the camera then returned to her.
“A man just came up and grabbed me but he’s ok, he’s not armed. A man just came up and grabbed me though.”
Channel Nine newsreader Michael Thomson said the man yelled “Allah Akbar while making motions to stab her. The man was chased down and held by Nine’s camera operator [Jason Conduit] and bystanders until police arrived”.
In an interview on the ‘Today’ show on Thursday morning, Walsh said she was “pretty rattled” by the incident.
“Even just hearing my scream. I don’t think anyone knows the sound of their true scream until they’re in a situation like that where they feel like it’s a life or death scenario,” she said.
“Which I did feel like that in a moment, I was doing a live cross into Adelaide, mid-sentence.”
Walsh said she first sensed “something was wrong” when camera operator Conduit stepped away from his camera.
“Then I had this guy, random, come up behind me and grab me from behind. It was a bit surreal. He sort of started punching me, the only way I can describe it is sort of stabby motions.
“I managed to push him away. Then he was standing about five metres away from me.”
She said she was “struggling to string a sentence together” as the man “had a hand in his pocket”.
“I thought, ‘Does he have a knife and is he going to come towards us and start stabbing us all?’
“We’ve had these stabbing rampages in London before. It was the third anniversary of the terror attacks on London Bridge. So I had that in my mind. I also thought, ‘Is he wearing a suicide vest?’”
Channel Nine said it is offering Walsh appropriate support following the ordeal.
“While crossing live into Nine News Adelaide tonight, our Europe correspondent, Sophie Walsh, was attacked by a member of the public. While rattled by the encounter, Sophie was unharmed,” read a Nine statement issued to HuffPost Australia.
“The offender was very quickly apprehended by police and has since been charged.
“Nine News appreciates the enormous pressure our international correspondents are currently under and is offering Sophie all the support she needs. Sophie is grateful for the outpouring of support she has received from the public and wishes to reassure our viewers that she is safe and well.”
The incident occurred after Prime Minister Scott Morrison instructed Australia’s embassy in the United States to “urgently” investigate after Channel 7 reporter Amelia Brace and cameraman Tim Myers were knocked down by police during a protest in Washington DC.