Elaine vs armed robber!
I acted fast to capture a robber at work. But when his balaclava was removed, I was in for a shock…
Why had he put me through this terrifying ordeal?
Approaching the social club where I worked, I delved into my pockets for my keys.
It was 6pm on 23 November last year, and we had a big 30th birthday party to host at St Joseph the Worker Catholic Social Club.
I was there to open up before the guests arrived.
I’d worked as a barmaid at the club for 15 years, and was promoted to manager in 2016.
The social club had such a warm, friendly environment.
From the members who came in for a drink on Saturdays, to the birthdays and weddings that the hall was hired out for, it felt like a real community atmosphere.
I needed the boost, especially since my hubby of 39 years Michael, 61, had been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in March 2017.
We were devastated, as were our children Mick, 36, Lee, 33, Ricki, 31, and Ellie, 23.
Work always put a smile on my face.
Opening up the shutters about half way, I stepped inside to shut down the alarm. But when I turned around, I jumped when I noticed a large male figure standing there in the darkness, looking at me. ‘You gave me a fright!’ I laughed, thinking it was one of the caterers.
But then a horrible shiver went through me as I realised he was wearing a balaclava.
He waved a screwdriver in my face and hissed: ‘I want the f*cking safe!’
I froze with terror.
We had a safe in the back room, and I knew there was about a few thousand stored in there at the time.
But as I hesitated, the man became even angrier, shouting at me.
I fumbled with my big ring of keys, and tried to hand them over.
‘Take them, just please let me go,’ I begged.
‘I don’t want the f*cking keys, take me to the money!’ he barked.
‘OK, OK,’ I said shakily, walking to the next door. Gripped with fear, I made my way through the pitch-black club, unlocking each door as we came to it. The man followed close behind me, with the screwdriver pointing towards me.
‘My husband has cancer, please don’t hurt me!’
But the man didn’t seem to care and continued shouting at me to hurry up.
When we reached the back room, I hastily shuffled over to the safe. I was in such a state I wasn’t even sure that I could remember the combination.
‘Come on!’ he demanded, making me jump with fright. Composing myself, I typed in the combination and the door opened. Barging me out of the way, he bent down to peer inside. Suddenly, he was like a child in a sweet shop, greedily snatching at the cash inside.
I stood back and watched him, my heart thumping and my legs trembling.
But as well as intense fear, I also felt anger.
Who does this thug think he is?
With him distracted, and the keys still in my hands, I sensed this was my chance to escape.
So I bolted out of the office, slamming the door behind me.
I heard him bellow something at me, but I never looked back. I sprinted through the darkness to the entrance, ducked under the half open shutter and closed it tight behind me.
He was now trapped inside the club.
Breathing heavy sighs of relief, tears welled in my eyes.
I’d escaped a nightmare – and the criminal wasn’t going to get away with it!
I’d left my phone in the office, so I ran to my friend’s house just over the road.
‘The club is being robbed,’ I said, banging on the door.
‘I’ll call the police!’ she said, ushering me inside.
The police turned up within five minutes.
But unfortunately, so had the caterers and party-goers.
‘I’m so sorry, we’ll get you in as soon as possible,’ I said to them, determined not to let
this ruin the party.
I heard the police say that they’d found the man hiding in the women’s toilets.
Not such a big man now, is he?
And when he emerged from the club in handcuffs, his balaclava had been removed.
I gasped in shock when I saw his face.
I recognised him as Anthony Ford, 43.
Though I’d never talked to him before, I knew who he was. His family lived close to the club, and I was friendly with his aunty. ‘It’s you,’ I said, stunned. ‘You did good there, girl,’ he snarled at me. Though I didn’t know Ford to talk to, I felt betrayed. He was local, close to home.
I’d always felt like there was a real sense of community around the club and the area. His family were really lovely, too. So why had he committed such a horrible act, and why put me through such a terrifying ordeal?
Once Forensics had finished in the club, I led all the party people inside.
‘Now, what can I get you to drink?’ I asked, slapping a smile on my face.
I’ve never worked harder to make sure that everyone had a top night.
Running on pure adrenaline, I worked until 2am that night.
It only really hit me the next day.
‘I can’t believe what happened,’ I cried to Michael, reliving it all.
In December, at Liverpool Crown
Court, Anthony Ford pleaded guilty to robbery and possessing an offensive weapon in a public place.
He was sentenced to five years for robbery, to run concurrently with a 12-month sentence for the offensiveweapon charge.
It’s not much, but I’m glad he’s behind bars.
Grappling with anxiety, I haven’t been able to return to work since that night.
I’ve also needed medication and counselling.
But that’s the least of my worries.
Michael’s health has taken a bad turn, and we don’t know how much longer he has left.
We’re determined to make the most of the time we have.
Anthony Ford’s actions will not cast a shadow over my husband’s final days.
I haven’t been able to return to work since that night
I’m devastated over Michael’s diagnosis
He waved a screwdriver in my face
Running on adrenaline, I somehow got through the terrible ordeal
His face was hidden...