A HORRIFIED worker barricaded a shop shut when a man ran into the store fleeing for his life claiming he was being chased by a machete-wielding attacker.
Michelle Lake was working an evening shift in the Londis store, in Elwick Road, Hartlepool, when a half-dressed man burst through the door shouting that someone had broken into his house and threatened him with a machete.
The man, who was topless and wearing no shoes, was pacing about the shop panicking that the attacker was going to follow him to the shop and was urging the staff to help him and phone 999.
Quick-thinking Michelle, 45, said she weighed up the situation and believed the best way to protect herself, as well as her colleague and the man, was to seal off the shop with the electric shutters by flicking a switch from inside.
Then, as she monitored the situation outside on the store’s CCTV system, the married mum-of-two rang police.
She then handed the phone to the shaken man and he explained what had happened to the emergency services call handlers.
Michelle said that within minutes a fleet of police cars pulled up outside the shop and in nearby Kimberley Street, where the alleged break-in had taken place, a team of armed police officers and the dog section searched for the offender as the force helicopter hovered overhead.
She said: “I was just standing behind the till when the man ran in half-clothed. He started pacing about and was asking me to phone the police.
“I looked at him for a while trying to work him out, and then I realised that he was genuinely panicking.
“He was saying ‘there’s a man just broken into my house with a machete and he’s threatened to kill me. I’ve left him in the house and I think he’s going to come up here’.
“I didn’t want anyone with a machete running up and getting in here so I thought it best that I shut the shutters for all of our safety.”
Michelle, who has worked at the store as a general assistant for about 18 months, said: “I was a bit wary and worried at first because I didn’t know who this man was, or what he was capable of.
“After a minute or so of looking at him I knew that he was genuinely scared. I just used my intuition, put my head on, and shut the shutters. I’m glad I did because this other lad could have ran in with a knife.
“I thought ‘just do it’, to keep myself and my colleague safe. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t wait to finish my shift and get home after that.”
l A MAN has appeared in court charged with one count of alleged robbery.
Kevin Rowbotham was brought before Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court yesterday. The 27-year-old, of Colwyn Road, Hartlepool, did not enter a plea to the charge, which is said to have taken place on Saturday.
He was remanded in custody and had his case sent to be dealt with at Teesside Crown Court, in Middlesbrough, on October 21.