Under Attack

Museum staff recover after sword is stolen

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: July 17, 2010

Museum volunteers at the centre of a full-scale manhunt were yesterday recovering from their ordeal.

Chairman Phil Trayhorn and quartermaster David Clarke were opening up the Brixham Battery museum at Fishcombe Cove when a man allegedly attacked them on Thursday afternoon.

He stole a Samurai sword and a dagger before making off along the remote coastal footpath, sparking a police operation with more than 20 armed officers.

Museum volunteer Robbie Robinson said Mr Trayhorn, from Kingswear, and Mr Clarke, from Brixham, were not seriously injured in the confrontation.

He said the museum, which houses military memorabilia, was staffed by dedicated volunteers and had never experienced anything like this in its eight-year history.

The museum was yesterday still cordoned off with police tape and is unlikely to open this weekend.

Guests staying at nearby Brixham Holiday Park and Seacove Cottages were at first kept out of the area during the incident.

A 52-year-old man from Brixham was still helping police with their inquiries last night.


MAN accused of assaulting volunteers before robbing a Samurai sword and a dagger from Brixham Battery Museum has appeared before Torquay magistrates.

Mitchell Lange, 52, of Hill Head, Brixham was formally charged with assaulting and unlawfully imprisoning volunteers David Clarke and Phil Trayhorn in the alleged incident at the museum off Fishcombe Road on Thursday afternoon.Lange was further charged with robbery of a Samurai sword and a dagger and possession of a bladed object in a public place.The incident happened at the museum at Fishcombe Cove, Brixham, on Thursday afternoon.

Mr Lange spoke only to give his name during the hearing on Saturday.

The case was committed to Exeter Crown Court.

Mr Lange was remanded in custody until the next hearing at Exeter on July 30.

Under Attack Brixham news

A MUSEUM volunteer has told of the moment he fought with a deranged attacker armed with a samurai sword and a Nazi SS dagger.

 Phil Trayhorn was opening the Brixham Battery Museum when he was confronted by delusional Michael Lange, also known as Mitchell, who said he was an ex-army officer behind enemy lines.

Over the next 40 minutes Mr Trayhorn, who was chairman of the museum, and steward David Clarke were held hostage by Lange who told them he knew Adolf Hitler and was on a mission to kill.

The stand-off ended when Mr Trayhorn made a break through the steel shutters and fled into a nearby holiday park, sparking a major police hunt for Lange who was later found in woods.


Two years after the incident Lange, 52, of Hill Head, Brixham, has been given a community order at Plymouth Crown Court.

The judge said the incident was 'highly bizarre and extremely concerning', but Lange posed little danger to the public.

Mr Trayhorn told police he arrived at the museum as usual on July 16, 2010. He saw the bloodied and shocked Mr Clarke, who said he had been attacked.

Lange then came behind him and closed the shutters saying 'I've been waiting for you'.

"He said he had come for the Japanese sword and SS dagger which were in the display case," Mr Trayhorn said.

"He said 'let me explain — I am working undercover for the government and I need the dagger and sword to complete my mission'.

"He then asked me if I was a Christian and I said 'Yes, of course'.

"He said that had I said no he would have killed me."

Mr Trayhorn tried to persuade him to let them both leave, but Lange refused.

His captor was bouncing on his toes with his fists clenched saying he was on a mission from God.

Mr Trayhorn boiled the kettle to make tea and threw the water at Lange in a bid to escape.

"Unfortunately the man hardly blinked," he said.

"He looked at me and I then used my shoulder to try to knock him to the floor. He did not flinch."

There followed a bizarre confrontation with the men picking up different pieces of wartime memorabilia from around the museum.

Mr Trayhorn used a MGFF airplane machine gun cannon and hit Lange with it but again he didn't move.

The pair then fought with Mr Trayhorn throwing a shotgun and tommy gun at Lange.

Lange had smashed the display case and armed himself with the unsheathed samurai sword which he pointed at Mr Trayhorn's throat and chest, but he was shocked by the level of resistance from the 62-year-old museum volunteer.

When he turned his back for a moment his two captives lifted the shutters and fled.

Mr Trayhorn said: "Dave delayed the man's exit using the broom handle as a defensive weapon against the man's sword thus allowing me to make my escape."

Lange admitted two charges of false imprisonment, robbery of the sword and dagger and having the weapons in the woods.

The court was told he visited the museum three days before the incident and shown an interest in the weapons.

It was said in mitigation that he was a cancer patient who went berserk because his operation had been cancelled.

Judge Cottle told the defendant: "The bottom line is you subjected these two victims to a terrifying ordeal over a period of three quarters of an hour to an hour.

He added how Lange was suffering from extreme stress during the time.

"Your risk to the public is low," he said.

After the sentence, Mr Trayhorn said: "I feel a little bit disappointed with the sentence and thought he might have got a suspended sentence at least considering what other people get sent to jail for.

"Dave has had no apology, the museum has had no apology and certainly I haven't had one. The damage he caused cost us a fortune, well over £2,000.