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…

Chat - - CONTENTS - Elaine Churchill, 58, Liver­pool

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!’

I pleaded.

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...

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