A plucky pensioner who fought off an armed robber when he tried to snatch her handbag has praised brave onlookers who caught the crook.
Joan Evans, 67, was attacked from behind, pulled to the ground and dragged along Appleby Street in Preston on May 16 this year.
But she refused to give up her bag and when two have-a-go heroes heard her screams, they chased after the offender, caught him and handed him over to the police.
Joan, from Moor Nook, Preston, was in court six months after her ordeal to watch her attacker, Stephen O’Connor, 38, jailed for three years by Judge Stuart Baker.
O’Connor, of Callon Street, Preston, who was carrying a knife at the time, admitted possession of a weapon and attempted robbery at Preston Crown Court.
Joan, who now lives in Salford, Greater Manchester, had been visiting her hometown to trace her family tree at Lancashire Archives.
She said: “I thought I would walk down to St Thomas’ Church. I used to go to Brownies there.
“I was just walking along and this guy grabbed me by the neck and shoulders from behind.
“He pulled me down onto the ground and he was trying to get my handbag. I was determined he wasn’t going to get it.
“He was dragging me along the ground and I started screaming, like I never knew I could possibly scream.
“He didn’t get the handbag off me - I said to myself ‘he’s not having it, he’s not having it’ - it was like a mantra going through my head.”
A young student couple called Damien and Nikki spotted the struggle as they were walking up the road.
Damien chased the robber, with the help of George Benson, a sales director and co-owner of nearby Target Electrical Supplies.
George, 59, said: “I had gone into our yard with a customer and I heard a scream - it was like a death scream.
“I walked towards the gate and saw a guy running past and another guy running up the street.
“The lady was on the ground with a young lady seeing to her, so our customer went to help and I went running after the lad. I just had a knee-op in January!
“I went past the other guy who was pursuing him. The thief went into some flats at the bottom of Moor Lane. But there is a cul-de-sac so he couldn’t go any further.
“I grabbed hold of him and we brought him back to the shop.”
When police arrived they searched O’Connor and found he was carrying the knife - to the shock of George and Joan.
George said: “I thought I was pretty lucky - if he had a knife when I got to him I would have run the other way! I’m only joking, but you don’t know how you would react.
“We had it all on our CCTV. Mrs Evans was very brave - she definitely wasn’t letting go of her handbag.”
Joan added: “These total strangers who came to my rescue, if they hadn’t have intervened I might have lost more than my handbag. I can’t thank them or praise them highly enough.
“I was pretty shaken as you might imagine but the people in the shop were marvellous, they made me a cup of tea and sat me down.
“It was one horrible person that day, but the others were really kind.”
Det Sgt Martin Pearson, of Preston CID, also praised the duo who cornered O’Connor.
He said: “It was the assistance of the public that enabled us to secure a conviction in this matter.
“It was very distressing for the lady involved and we are pleased that she was in court to see her attacker brought to justice.
“Fortunately these kind of incidents are rare.”
Joan said she was pleased with the judge’s sentence.
She said: “I think the judge was swayed by the violence. My elbow was badly scraped because he was dragging me along the ground, my scarf was torn, my clothes were mucky and I had bruising on my hip and arm.
“I’ve got to be a little more circumspect now - instead of having my bag over my shoulder I will put it across my body and under my coat.
“But it hasn’t affected my confidence too badly. I mean come on, I’m a Preston girl, and we are made of stern stuff aren’t we?”