A 999 call handler who stopped a suicide and a quick thinking passenger who pulled a woman from a burning car on the M4 were among the award winners at the Gwent Police Chief Constable's Commendations and Long Service Awards Ceremony.

Danielle Thomas, 30, from Blaina, kept a suicidal man on the phone for half an hour in April this year, getting information that led to officers finding him on a remote mountain and ultimately saving his life.

For her action, she was awarded a commendation from Gwent Police chief constable Julian Williams.

“In April this year I took a 999 call, just like any other day,” explained Ms Thomas.

“A distressed man said he was going to end his life. I’ve spoken to other people like that, but this time I just knew somehow that it was different.”

The man on the other end of the phone would not give any information about his whereabouts, but Ms Thomas managed to keep him on the line for around 30 minutes, which gave her enough time to work out where he was.

Police were then able to find him, and save his life.

“My job is to try and help people, I don’t really do it for the awards,” added Ms Thomas.

“I did everything I could to try and help him and luckily on this occasion I was able to.

“I think about what could have happened if I didn’t get that information all the time.”

Another non-serving police officer to pick up a chief constable’s commendation at the awards was Andrew Leach, 50, of Little Sutton near Chester.

Mr Leach was a passenger on the M4 near Newport in July this year when a car burst into flames and pulled over to the hard shoulder.

Quick thinking Andrew raced to the car and dragged the driver from it before emergency services arrived.

“I just acted on instinct I suppose,” he explained.

“We were following the car and smoke was coming out of the bottom of it. It got worse and suddenly it swerved off to the hard shoulder, so we followed.

“I was watching the car, waiting for her to get out. When she didn’t and the flames started I just acted.

“The fire crews said it was incredible that I had managed to save her, and they said a lot of people get injured opening the doors of burning cars. But I stayed low, and managed to unbuckle her seatbelt and drag her out.

“It’s been an amazing day with my wife and daughter, especially hearing the stories of all the other brave deeds.”

Both Mr Leach and Ms Thomas received their awards, alongside serving Gwent Police officers honoured for their bravery and dedication at the awards ceremony held at Bryn Meadow Golf Club, Ystrad Mynach, on Friday, November 9.

Among the police officers picking up an award were detective inspector Justin O’Keefe and PC Kelda Griffiths.

PC Griffiths, a 15-year Gwent Police veteran, was off duty visiting her partner in Port Talbot in May last year when she confronted a hammer-wielding woman in the street.

Despite being off duty, PC Griffiths managed to restrain the woman, but sustained serious injuries in the attack.

To this day, she has yet to return to work as she waits for a knee operation, and her other injuries included bite marks on her back and head.

“The award has taken me by surprise,” admitted PC Griffiths.

“It’s obviously very much appreciated but this is the job we do, uniformed or not. We don’t do it for praise or glory. It’s an instinct, and it’s ingrained in you.

“It’s about helping people and putting them first. I would do the same again even knowing the injuries I’ve received.

“I’m determined to come back from this and to get back out there.”

Detective inspector Justin O’Keefe picked up a chief constable’s commendation for his part in Gwent Police’s Operation Wheel, an undercover operation that smashed a Newport class A drugs ring last year.

He explained that an organised gang, operating out of Pill, was supplying large quantities of crack cocaine and heroin to dealers across South Wales.

“They would sell from the streets all day, showing total disregard for the people who live in the community.

“It was only a two month operation, which is quite short for this type of crime.

“But I think you can still see the difference this operation has had in the Pill area. We’re not naïve enough to think that we’ve solved the problem in Newport, but we have sent a clear message to others that they will have to face the consequences.

“Those arrested got 10-15 years each.

“The commendation doesn’t bother me. The award for these types of operations should go to the team carrying them out.”

The awards were presented by chief constable Julian Williams.

In his programme notes he said: "Every year I am humbled to hear the acts of bravery, selflessness, skill and perseverance that is displayed by all of the award recipients, and this year is no different.

"Together with the police and crime commissioner, we are pleased to be able to recognise you all formally and to show in some small way our gratitude for the work that you have done and continue to do. You are truly dedicated to protecting and reassuring the communities of Gwent and we are very proud of that."

Also receiving their chief constable commendations were DS Nathan Sparkes, PC Martyn Newman, SPS Colin Brooks and SC Matthew Chapman, PC Michael Coles, Kate WIlliams and PC Terry Fenner.

Long service awards were given to 35 officers, eight police staff and two special constables, while eight recuipients were awarded SFJ awards in police management.