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Axe-wielding store owner sees off would-be robber

The owner of Bargain Hunters in Somerset, Michael Forde, who saw off a would-be armed robber (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

The owner of a Somerset store who faced down a would-be armed robber with an axe admitted his actions were “not recommended” but said emotion got the better of him.

The suspect fled empty-handed after the confrontation at the Bargain Hunters store on Somerset Road in Sandys.

Michael Forde, owner of the home and hardware shop, told how he faced a concealed weapon that appeared to be intended to resemble a firearm.

He was ordered to fill a plastic bag with cash, but instead locked his cash register, throwing the keys behind a shelf and arming himself with an axe.

“I’m not saying we can’t be robbed, but they’re not getting our money and that’s the bottom line,” Mr Forde said.

“I don’t care if they come in a tank. It’s our business and we are not handing it over.”

Police confirmed yesterday that the attempted robbery was under investigation and urged the public not to resist an assailant, saying that while the impulse to protect property or merchandise might seem natural, doing so could pose a “significant risk of serious injury or worse”.

They also called on the community not to share video clips of the incident that have circulated on social media, warning that the images could jeopardise an investigation and raise legal problems in the event a suspect appeared before the courts.

The unknown male, who had clothing covering his face, entered the store just after 2pm on December 31.

As he approached, Mr Forde said: “I realised he was not a customer, but there to rob.”

Police said the man brandished a concealed object and demanded that the store owner hand over cash from the register.

Mr Forde said he “didn’t say anything — I just locked the register and took the key and threw it”.

He added: “It wasn’t fear. I’m not being boastful, I was just shocked, but I had a couple of extra seconds to process what was going on. I figured if he had a gun, he would have shown it.”

Mr Forde said he then grabbed the axe behind the counter when the intruder appeared to head towards where he had tossed the keys to the register.

“That’s when he changed his mind.”

He said he did not pursue the man, who police said fled the store on foot and escaped heading east along a nature trail.

Mr Forde conceded that attempting to take on an armed robber was “not recommended” but said emotions got the better of him.

“My wife, Bernadette, and I started this store here five years ago and built our business from scratch,” he added.

“I had made up my mind, anybody tried to rob us, the first thing I would do is go the register and lock it.”

The couple live in the adjoining building, and Ms Forde said she feared for her husband’s safety when he came to their residence and told her what had just happened.

The store had experienced “petty theft” but never an attempt to rob them.

She said: “Mike said, don’t panic, but we just had an attempted robbery. I panicked. When I saw the video of what happened, my mouth just dropped.”

She added: “We have worked hard to build this store up — this is our life, and someone is just going to try and take it?”

Mr Forde, originally from Ireland, said he usually kept a traditional Irish hurley, the heavy stick used in the traditional game of hurling, behind the cash register, but it was not in reach — so he settled on the axe.

“I’ve been in other situations,” the former construction worker added. “It’s not the worst thing that has happened to me, put it that way.”

The couple said they were surprised by their notoriety after security footage from the store got widely shared on social media.

Police asked the community not to share them, as they risked impeding an investigation.

Detective Inspector Clifford Roberts, of the Criminal Investigative Unit/Specialist Investigations, said that while sharing video images might appear useful in identifying a suspect, the public should “please refrain from posting on social media, images or videos of possible criminal activity around homes or businesses”.

“Not only can posting these images to social media lead to legal issues, should a suspect be arrested and brought to court, but it may also alert a suspect that they are being sought and lead them to dispose of items such as the clothing seen in those images, or other property which could associate them with a specific crime.”

A spokesman said the personal safety of residents, merchants and their staff personal was “top priority” in the event of an armed robbery.

Instead of confronting a robber, police advised people to remain calm and not resist, and make mental notes of the robber’s appearance.

The victim of a robbery should take notice of the assailant’s actions to include in a report, and proceed immediately to a safe location after the crime to report it.

Anyone with information on the Somerset incident is asked to call Detective Constable Malcolm Dill on 717-2017 or via e-mail at mdill@bps.bm.

The public can also use the non-emergency reporting number 211, the main police number, 295-0011, or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477.