Wiltshire police said the handling of the Matthew Baggott stabbing incident in Devizes was a good example of the effective way the town is policed.

There were criticisms that inexperienced Police Community Support Officers did not seal off the crime scene in St John's Court early enough last Thursday and that vital evidence could have been lost.

But Superintendent Paul Williams said he was pleased with the way his officers dealt with the situation. He said: "The first call came in at 2.56pm and we had someone in custody nine minutes later.

Even before that first call, though, a PCSO on routine patrol had seen the two men and was suspicious. She was able to direct the first police vehicle in the direction of the suspects.

"I want to emphasise that these were local officers attending a local situation. They are all part of the local neighbourhood policing team."

There was also criticism from those at the scene that efforts were not taken to seal off the area quickly enough.

Pedestrians were still passing by as the victim was being treated.

Mr Williams said: "The first priority at the scene is the preservation of life."

However, stab victim Hayley Cooper, who was a friend of Matthew Baggott, has spoken of her anxiety that knife crime has now become a problem in her home town.

Miss Cooper, 24, survived 28 stab wounds during an attack on her by Mark Oldfield at a camp site at High Post, near Salisbury, last September.

Oldfield, 32, was sentenced to life imprisonment but Miss Cooper received a letter this week from the Probation Service saying that he would be eligible for parole a year from now, having served a little over two years of his sentence.

She said this sends out the wrong kind of message.

The news of Thursday's incident had hit her hard. She said: "It brought it all back. I have known Maff (Matthew Baggott) since we were about five and he was a good friend to all.

"I get the feeling that knife crime is not being taken seriously. The police should be able to stop and search people.

"And, if they find a knife, they should put them straight in prison. Devizes is a small market town but now we're catching up with big places like Swindon."

She is now faced with the prospect of her former partner being free in a year's time and the insecurity of knowing he is out there.

She has formed a stable relationship with George Topping, who is also concerned about the knife problem.

He said: "Everyone seems to be carrying a knife. It is one of those things that grows out of all proportion.

"People are worried about being attacked, so they get a knife to protect themselves. Now, instead of throwing a punch, they are stabbing people."

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