Matthew Tvrdon: The Cardiff school run that turned to tragedy

Karina Menzies
Image caption Karina Menzies was killed when she was hit by a van driven by Matthew Tvrdon

On Friday 19 October at 15:30, Matthew Tvrdon began a rampage which would last only 30 minutes but would devastate the lives of several families across Cardiff and bring parts of the city to a standstill.

The 32-year-old, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, was behind the wheel of his van intent on mowing down random pedestrians, targeting women and children.

In the Ely area of the city, Tvrdon used his white Iveco van to mow down people walking children home from school as well as attacking three people with a car crook lock and running over a mother and daughter at a petrol station in Leckwith.

Eye witnesses reported Tvrdon driving aggressively and erratically around the west of the city, driving towards oncoming traffic and swerving across lanes to mount kerbs in an effort to run over innocent people.

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Media captionMatthew Tvrdon's "journey of mayhem" through the west of Cardiff was captured by CCTV cameras

He killed one woman and injured 17 people, including police officers and seven children, in five locations:

•At Crossways Road, at the top of the busy Cowbridge Road West road in Ely, a woman, 29, was wounded, along with a boy, nine, who suffered arm and leg injuries and a girl, eight, who had a head injury.

•Minutes later, at the Ely Reptile Centre in Cowbridge Road West, Adam Lewis, 24, his partner Annie Jones, 22, and their daughter, two, were hit. The mother had leg injuries, her daughter had facial injuries and the father had minor injuries.

•Next, Karina Menzies, 31, and two children, Eillie, eight and Tiana, 23 months, were knocked over outside Ely Fire Station. Ms Menzies died, while Ellie had a head injury. Her toddler was taken to hospital for observations.

•Then outside shops in Grand Avenue in Ely, a woman, 32, received multiple injuries, while a 10-year-old girl had an arm injury and a 12-year-old girl injured her back.

•Finally, at Asda petrol station, three people were attacked with a steering lock at the Asda petrol station at Leckwith retail park, with the victims suffering minor injuries.

•Also at the petrol station, a mother, 49, and daughter, 27, were hit by the van, suffering multiple injuries.

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Media captionThe map shows the route Tvrdon took on his journey of 'mayhem'

Tvrdon began the mayhem in a black Renault Clio, which he was seen to be driving recklessly along Western Avenue, a major commuter route in Cardiff.

He drove to the car park of the West End Social Club in Cowbridge Road West, where he switched to his van.

His ex-girlfriend Lisa Davies, who lived nearby, appeared quickly on the scene, standing in front of the van to prevent him driving off. She could not stop him.

Now at the wheel of his three-tonne van, Tvrdon started on his eight mile rampage. Thirty minutes later, a spree of horror had unfolded stretching emergency services to the limit.

Panic spread through the city as worried residents phoned loved ones or took to Facebook and Twitter to warn people to stay inside.

Image caption Matthew Tvrdon was arrested near a pub on the outskirts of Cardiff

Seconds away, Karina Menzies was walking with two of her young daughters past Ely fire station on the way home from school when, without warning and watched by horrified onlookers, Tvrdon drove at them.

He veered across two lanes of traffic and aimed directly at them.

Ms Menzies saw the van coming, screamed and tried to push one of her children out of the way as it hurtled towards the pavement.

She was struck by the vehicle before it turned around and ran her over again.

A witness described how Ms Menzies was semi-conscious and her children were calling out for their mother. She later died.

Onlookers on a bus started shouting and jumped off to try to help, with some ringing 999 to report the number plate of the vehicle.

A BMW driver drove off chasing the departing van but was unable to stop it.

Image caption Tvrdon was caught on CCTV swerving across the carriageway on Cowbridge Road West

The A&E department at the University Hospital of Wales closed its doors to anyone not involved in the incident and those with non-emergency conditions were asked to stay away.

Meanwhile, police were desperately trying to catch Tvrdon.

He drove along Grand Avenue, a dual carriageway in a large residential area in Ely, where sub-postmaster Shady Taha, 29, had just served two girls and a young woman who had left his shop.

"All of a sudden I heard a bang. I looked out and across the road - one girl was on the floor and the other girl was screaming," he said.

After driving to Culverhouse Cross, Tvrdon drove along the Cardiff Bay link road to Leckwith retail park, where shoppers reported hearing a commotion at the Asda petrol station.

Tvrdon was attacking three people with a steering wheel lock.

He then got back into his van and when 49-year-old Jill White tried to remonstrate with him, he ran her over.

When her 27-year-old daughter, Rebecca, ran to help her mother, he hit her too and dragged both women under the van along the forecourt and towards a lay-by before driving off.

Motorist Sarah Pryor Leckwith, witnessed the incident.

Image caption Part of Grand Avenue in Ely, opposite Red House Crescent, were closed after the incident

"It was an awful sight," she said. "I had a small girl in the car, I had to distract her and point at something away."

Angharad Davies, who was heading for a coffee with her baby and two-year-old daughter, added: "I saw a van and there was a man chasing it and asking people to stop the van."

Tvrdon was eventually arrested by officers at 15:57 near the Merrie Harrier pub at Llandough on the outskirts of Cardiff.

The windscreen of his van was smashed and covered in blood.

He attempted to resist the arresting officer, assaulting him with a crook lock. In turn, Tvrdon was sprayed with CS gas.

The trail of destruction left a community in grief and shocked the rest of the country.

In all, South Wales Police said there had been 44 emergency calls asking for police and ambulance and 100 eyewitness statements.

In the days that followed, Welsh Secretary David Jones passed on the thanks of the prime minister to emergency and health services as well as his sympathies to those affected.

Image caption Floral tributes were laid outside Ely fire station in memory of Karina Menzies

Locals paid their respects to Ms Menzies by leaving flowers outside the fire station, while a packed service at the Church of the Resurrection in Grand Avenue heard how the incident had "broken the heart of the community".

It was also announced that trust funds would be set up to help the family.

Ms Menzies' brother Craig later revealed that she had "saved the lives" of her two children in the incident.

But for many in the community, the mental and physical scars of that Friday school run in October will take a long time to heal.

Tvrdon, who has paranoid schizophrenia, admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at Cardiff Crown Court.

He also admitted seven counts of attempted murder and other charges including three counts of grievous bodily harm with intent, and was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act.

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