London thieves caught off guard by ‘cool’ pensioner


Sun, Nov 02, 2008 - Page 6

It was going to take someone with courage to challenge the two youths who were smashing their way into a jewelry shop with sledgehammers.

But of the 50 people watching in broad daylight, he may not have been the obvious one to step forward. A pensioner, thought to be in his 70s, walked up to one of the robbers in mid-swing and plucked the balaclava from his head.

As the youths fled, he shouted: “I’ve got your DNA.”

The pensioner then hopped on board a bus and slipped away before anyone had a chance to congratulate him.

The spectacle took place on George Street in Richmond, southwest London, on Thursday. The sequence of events was recorded on camera by another shopper who took a photograph of the robber after his balaclava was removed. It has been handed over to the police.

The pedestrian, who wore a red poppy in his coat lapel, has still not been identified.

Scotland Yard said it was appealing for witnesses to the robbery.

“While not taking anything away from the bravery shown by this individual,” a spokesman said, “we would always advise people to concern themselves with their own safety before anything else.”

The two raiders, he confirmed, had been “challenged by a man walking past who pulled off a balaclava worn by one of the men.”

The suspects escaped in a silver car that “drove off in the direction of Richmond magistrates’ court.”

They were described as aged between 18 and 20.

Staff at the Ernest Jones jewelry shop on George Street said it was the third time the premises had been targeted. On previous occasions, in June and August, robbers escaped with Rolex watches.

Nick Thompson, whose office overlooks the shop, said the robbers were “stunned” by the old man’s intervention.

“The girls in the office heard a commotion and when we went to the window we saw these two guys with sledgehammers breaking the windows,” he said. “The glass must have been a lot tougher than they thought. There were about 50 people at the bus stop next door just watching in shock. Then this old guy — he looked smart and had a poppy on — just walked up behind one of the guys and pulled off his balaclava. The robbers turned round and seemed quite startled and dropped the sledgehammers and ran up the lane around the corner to the green.”

Thompson, director of Projector Point, which sells home cinemas, said the man “seemed quite calm and not doddery. He was probably the unlikeliest person they thought would stop them.”

The pensioner, he said, “was really cool.”

One of the sales assistants at Ernest Jones, Homaria, said there had been raids on the shop during the summer.

“I’ve got used to it,” she said, “though it was really scary when I was here.”

A spokesman for Ernest Jones said the company wanted to reward the elderly man with a Rolex for his bravery: “Obviously our top priority is the safety of our customers and staff.”