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The Spanish policeman, who shot and killed four terrorists as they attacked civilians with knives and an axe in the resort town of Cambrils, is a former special forces soldier who was working overtime.

The married father, who has not been named for security reasons, served with the Legion – an elite infantry unit of the Spanish army.

He was highly trained in firearms and marksmanship. After leaving the armed forces he joined the Catalan police force Mossos d’Esquadra, where he had hoped for a more stable and less dangerous life.

The officer was not meant to be on duty on Thursday night, but agreed to work overtime, to beef up security, after the attacks in Barcelona earlier that day.

As his patrol monitored the promenade in Cambrils, 120 kilometres from Barcelona, five terrorists drove into the resort intent on causing further death and destruction.

Driving at high speed, the jihadists ploughed a black Audi A3 into pedestrians on a promenade before crashing into a police checkpoint – overturning the vehicle and injuring one officer.

The terrorists, who were wearing fake suicide vests, then jumped out, armed with an axe and knives.

But using his army training and experience, the officer shot and killed four of them, probably saving dozens of lives.

The fifth terrorist got away and stabbed a woman in the neck before being shot dead by another officer.

The Audi A3 used in the Cambrils attack was photographed by a speed camera near Paris about a week before the atrocities in Spain, it has emerged.

French police found the photo while searching for possible accomplices, according to security sources.

Telegraph, London

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