When cop Lee Broadbent applies hand gel, he must choose it carefully in case it triggers traumatic flashbacks from 13 years ago.
If the hand sanitizer is too greasy, the gel will remind him of the feeling of blood on his hands and may cause a spiral.
This is just one of the effects of the trauma left after Lee, 39, was the first responder to arrive at the scene of the brutal murder of a young mother in Tameside, Manchester, in 2008.
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He remembers all too clearly looking into Monika Jakusz’s terrified eyes as she lay dying of 18 stab wounds.
And he remembers just as clearly the terrifying sound of her little boy screaming “Mommy” in the background as he did his best to save her.
Surprisingly, Lee describes how he felt at the time of the horrific incident as “emotionless.”
He “had a job to do,” and his uniform acts as a shield, protecting him from the reality of the horror so he can do what needs to be done, he explains to the Manchester Evening News.
But as the 13th anniversary of Monika Jakusz’s murder has passed, Lee, who has just been named chairman of the Greater Manchester branch of the police federation, has been candid about the torment he has endured since that night – and talks about his plans to help colleagues who may feel the same way.
On Sunday, Lee took to social media to reveal the traumatic sight that greeted him on December 12, 2008 – a dying mother with her sobbing son, just a toddler, standing over her.
He said on Twitter: “Monika was still alive when I landed, her young son was standing over her crying as I put on gloves and looked into her eyes and said it would be okay.
“When I discovered stab wound after stab wound, I knew I had lied. She died in my arms.’
Monika was rushed to Tameside General Hospital but was pronounced dead after multiple stab wounds.
In an interview with The Manchester Evening News, Lee, who was only 26 years old at the time, elaborated on his messages.
He says he was only three blocks away when he received information over the radio that a woman had been stabbed to death.
When he arrived people were yelling, “In there, in there!” and points to the house.
“I took my first aid kit from the trunk of the car and walked to the address,” he said.
“There were a lot of voices, a lot of crying.
“I walked up the first stairwell, turned to the left and saw Monika essentially lying on the floor with another woman and a child bent over her.
“Her arm stretched out to me.
“As I got closer, I could see Monika moving, but it was very difficult.
“As I knelt down, I immediately felt the wetness and moisture of the blood in my pants draw around my knees.
Monika looked at me at this point. She tried to talk but it sputtered, her hands were badly cut with defensive lacerations.
“I looked at her and told her it would be good to calm down and reassure her, but as it progressed, of course, that wasn’t the case.
“What really struck me was that you could constantly hear a kid in the background yelling, ‘Mama, Mama.’
“It wasn’t emotional at the time, but after that it really hit me — and it haunts me.”
As he describes the scene, Lee takes a few seconds to compose himself, such is his emotion despite so many years having passed.
He describes in meticulous, chronological detail the process of events, from his radio calls, to locating wounds, to administering CPR – ‘a terrible thing to do, it’s not like you see it on TV, the sound that you’re filling, you’re essentially cracking ribs, and if you don’t crack ribs, you’re not doing it right’; on the arrival of the ambulance – ‘only in the light of the ambulance was the true horror of the mutilation of her injuries apparent’; in the frantic rush to save her.
“It was all hands on deck. I tied on the surgeon’s mask and surgeon’s gown while he performed the surgery,” adds Lee.
Despite the best efforts of everyone who worked on her in the hospital, Monika did not survive her injuries.
Lee tells the MEN that an autopsy revealed, “Monika had died in the hallway while she was with me.”
For a few seconds as he relays this information, Lee must stop speaking and there is a long silence before he can continue.
Since he describes the event clearly, he could be talking about an incident that happened yesterday – not 13 years ago. Obviously, none of what he saw has faded with the passage of time.
Hearing the lawsuit on April 1, 2009, the MEN reported that Monika had been living in the UK for about two years and had moved to Tameside to give her three-year-old son a better life.
She started dating Grzegorz Borowy and they shared a house until their relationship broke down and Monika moved into a flat on Warrington Street.
During a heated argument, the jealous ex Grzegorz Borowy stabbed Monika 18 times.
Borowy of Stamford Street, Ashton pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court to the murder of Monika Jakusz and was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum of 13 years, 322 days.
When I talk to Lee, all these years later, it’s clear that he, too, has served his own sentence.
Lee explained on Twitter: “Around this time last year  I took 20mg of Citalopram and was in EMDR for 3 sessions after a decade of fleeing the traumatic impression this event left behind.
“I did not process the trauma in the days that followed and as a result it has damaged me in more ways than I can understand.
“Now I’m off medication, able to talk openly about the event and trauma and not only did I go back to the front lines, but I’m now in a position where I can make a difference in how we (police officers) ) look and treat our broken.
“I’m not sharing this for a pat on the bat or publicity. Far from it. I’m sharing this because it’s clear there are a lot more good people I’ve been to over the past ten years. They can struggle and think there’s no other way .
“Being open about my experience starts a conversation and hopefully gives others hope that it’s okay not to be okay and that talking about what you’re experiencing is the hardest, but ultimately the most important step to recovery.”
Lee says that even in the hours that followed the horrors of the incident, he just had to carry on.
“Ultimately you still have a job to do, this is now a murder and there are procedures to follow,” he said.
“It’s straight back to work the next day to do it all over again, as they say.
“That’s the reality of it.
“You get swept up in the fanfare of it all.
“You did a great job, you did your best, so there are a lot of pats on the back, I have good working minutes and compliments for the actions I took during the event.
“You normalize it as part of the job, as opposed to just witnessing and being part of a horrific event
“It’s that normalization that catches you.”
Lee says the full trauma of the incident really hit him when his grandmother died in 2016 and he resuscitated her.
Now he calls on fellow police officers and first responders and all his followers to seek help in times of personal crisis.
“Reach out…there’s a whole host of people out there willing to help. Trust me,” he says.
With his new role as chairman of the Greater Manchester branch of the police federation, Lee, who was out of service for eight months, received treatment for burnout, counseling sessions and EMDR to help him cope with PTSD, that more can be done for police officers and for all frontline workers.
He describes welfare provisions for police officers as ‘patchy’ and believes that outsourcing obligations means that ‘broken colleagues’ are not treated in-house, often requiring a long wait for help.
“If there’s a six-month waiting period, that’s six months for an agent in crisis,” he said.
“If you wait six months for treatment, and all the time you’re doing the work that has effectively damaged you and you’re exposed to those kinds of situations on a daily basis, you’ll only suffer more.
“There needs to be more provision in the armed forces to treat colleagues early when they take that first, bold step to come forward and actually say, ‘I have a problem.’
Lee described how in an average person’s life, an individual might be exposed to three or four traumatic incidents, but for a police officer, it could be anywhere from 300 to 400, depending on the type of work they do.
“When you’re in a serious collision investigation unit, you deal with death and destruction on the road on a daily basis, there’s no recourse, you can’t come back and turn on the kettle, that’s another person lying on the road that you have to take care of,” he said.
“The public service cuts mean there are fewer people dealing with the same amount of trauma, so there is more exposure.
“It is important that we as a society recognize the cumulative impact on everyone charged with dealing with emergency services.
“When more of us were on duty we might have been dealing with one death per shift per week, now it’s two or three per shift – there is literally no delay.
“We have nurses and doctors on the front lines of the NHS dealing with this epidemic and it’s dead, dead, dead, dead. It’s going to have a huge, cumulative effect on these people who are already exhausted and at a breaking point.
“Without the proper investment or acknowledgment of what they’re going through now and getting our homes in order so we can support them when these people eventually break down, we’re really going to pile up the problem for the future.”
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