Have-a-go newsagent sees off armed thug

NEWSAGENT Michael Anthonipilli wasn’t about to be intimidated when a masked raider armed with a knife demanded money.

Instead of handing over cash from the till he grabbed the robber and wrestled him to the floor before the thug broke free and fled.

The armed man, who was disguised by a grey hooded top and blue and white-spotted bandana, stormed into Newsmart, at the top end of High Street, Romford, at about 1.30pm on Wednesday afternoon.

But shopkeeper Michael, 54, pulled the knife off him and pushed his attacker to the floor.

Mr Anthonipilli said: “He came into the shop and walked to the fridge where he put his mask on.

“He walked towards me pointing a knife at me saying ‘give me the money, give me the money’.

“I caught the knife under my arm and pushed him to the floor. I wasn’t scared.”

Most Read

A scuffle on the floor followed during which Michael cut his hand on the seven-inch knife blade.

Mr Anthonipilli said: “He tried to take the knife back off me but I didn’t let him. It cut my hand. He punched and kicked me.

“We were fighting on the floor for about two or three minutes.”

The robber struggled free and got his hands in the till but didn’t get away with the lot.

Mr Anthonipilli said: “He only got a couple of coins, probably about �30 or �40. We normally have a couple of hundred in there. There was still money in it when he ran off.”

The robber made off on foot from the busy area towards the Romford ring road and threw a black handgun, which police confirmed was a plastic toy, by a kerb in the road as he went.

Mr Anthonipilli was unable to speak straight after the ordeal as the reality of what happened began to set in but said the next day: “I was a bit shaken. I was terribly shocked.”

An unmarked police car scouted the area before officers arrived and cordoned off the shop including the street outside where the gun lay on the floor so officers could scour the area for evidence.

The knife was handed over to police.

Mr Anthonypilli was seen by an ambulance crew who are believed to have treated him for leg injuries, the cut to his hand and chest pains but he did not need to go to hospital.

He called his cousin, Basil Gerard, 48, who owns Colliers Corner newsagents in Collier Row, moments after the robbery. He arrived at the shop the same time as Mr Anthonipilli’s wife Annette, 54, who was expecting to start work.

Mrs Anthonipilli, who wasn’t allowed to see her husband straight away because she couldn’t enter the crime scene, said: “I was very worried about him. I was told he had been fighting with him. They were both on the floor.”

She said in total the shop had two days worth of takings which would have amounted to between �2,500 and �3,000.

The shop which has been run by the same Barkingside family, originally from Sri Lanka, for five years has never experienced trouble in the past.

The robber, believed to be between 17 to 21 years old, is still on the run. He was wearing a grey tracksuit

Anyone with information is asked to contact DS Holly Simon on 0300 123 1212 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 1111.