'It was terrifying': Moment Channel 9 reporters are attacked live on air

Brooke Rolfe
News Reporter

Two Australian journalists have been assaulted in separate incidents while covering protests in London.

Nine News Europe correspondent Sophie Walsh was covering a Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park on Wednesday morning (local time) when she was attacked.

In a separate incident, another Nine reporter, Ben Avery, was set upon in an underground tunnel while he was broadcasting live on the Today show on Thursday.

Walsh was speaking during a live cross for Adelaide's 6pm news bulletin, but was not in front of the camera when a man allegedly grabbed her from behind.

A man allegedly yelled “Allah Akbar” before making stabbing motions and grabbing Walsh, she explained in an interview with Today on Thursday.

Sophie Walsh screamed as she was attacked by a stranger during a live cross from the London protests. Source: Nine

In the footage Walsh can be heard screaming before camera operator Jason Conduit armed himself with a light stand and chased the man into the park.

“S***, sorry, sorry,” a shaken Walsh is heard saying as she watches the men run away.

“Yeah 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.”

The man was chased down and detained by Mr Conduit and passers-by until police arrived and arrested him.

Officers found the man had a screwdriver and charged him with threats to kill and possessing an offensive weapon. 

Walsh said she was still “definitely pretty rattled” following the incident, particularly watching back her response in the footage and seeing just how terrified she was.

“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 told the Today show.

“I did feel like that in that moment.”

Speaking with 2GB host ben Fordham, Walsh said “it was terrifying” being set on during the live cross.

“Doing a live cross, you’re so exposed and so vulnerable. I hadn’t felt like that in many, many years,” she said.

Walsh explained she first detected a threat when her cameraman Jason Conduit stuck his head out from behind the camera.

“Next thing I knew I had a random guy wrap his arms around me and sort of try to take me down saying Allah Akbar. He was punch stabbing me in the side. Jason reckons he took a swing at me but missed.

Ben Avery was chased down by the crowd seen in the background here. Source: Nine

“He was standing about five metres away when I was back on air, and that’s when I was struggling to find the words to say.”

Walsh said she feared the man had a knife in his pocket and might have been about to go on a “stabbing spree”, given it was the third anniversary of the London Bridge terror attacks.

Walsh told AAP a nearby photographer had said the man also claimed to have put a bomb in a bin.

She said she was rattled but not physically harmed by the unprovoked attack, which prompted an outpouring of support for the correspondent on social media.

“Thank you for your messages. The man has been arrested for threats to kill and carrying a weapon. I'm shaken but ok. Big thanks to my incredible cameraman Jason Conduit who chased him down armed with a light stand and got him arrested,” Walsh wrote to Twitter.

Ben Avery explained being ambushed by a swarm of protesters while covering riots in London during Thursday morning’s Today program, later telling hosts he had to run for his life away from them.

Avery ran through an underground tunnel, where his microphone was stolen. Source: Nine

Footage showed him backing away from a large crowd in an underground tunnel, before picking up into a jog and eventually reaching safety.

Despite trying to keep away from the trouble and report from a distance, Avery said the “the danger followed us”.

“Even with a security guard there we felt quite unsafe and the microphone (was) pulled out of my hand. At one stage I tried to run after him and realised that probably wasn't the best idea,” he recalled.

“We had bottles flying around, at one stage one of the bottles hit me in the face as I was running off.”

The experience was “pretty scary really” Avery said, saying “you can only imagine what it's like in the US at the moment where they are dealing with this all the time”.

With Australian Associated Press

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