Man who thwarted Sunderland muggers insists: ‘I’m no hero’

Ian Hardy.

Ian Hardy.

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THIS have-a-go hero helped catch two scumbags responsible for a series of brutal street robberies.

The victims were all women and included a 72-year-old – left with broken bones after trying to cling on to her bag – a 64-year-old on the way to the chemist and a Sunderland student.

William Storey, 50, was jailed for 6.5 years for robbery

William Storey, 50, was jailed for 6.5 years for robbery

But robbers William Storey (below top) and Darren Watts (below bottom) were foiled by the actions of Ian Hardy.

The 32-year-old painter and decorator was turning his van around, after taking a wrong turn off Chester Road, when he spotted a man pull up his hood and snatch a woman’s bag off her shoulder from behind.

Ian slammed his foot on the accelerator and started chasing the thug down a back alley, where he jumped into a parked getaway car. He managed to box the car in before leaping out and demanding the thugs hand back the bag.

Ian said: “He wound down the window and started reversing into the van and was shouting at me to move it.

Darren Watts, 53, was jailed for four years for robbery

Darren Watts, 53, was jailed for four years for robbery

“I refused and he just kept ramming into the van. Eventually he managed to push it far enough to get through and he drove down a back lane.”

Ian, helped by colleague Robert Smith, said: “We tried to follow, but he got out and threw down a load of wheelie bins so we couldn’t get through.”

Quick-thinking Robert managed to snap the villains on his mobile phone while Ian called the police, who caught up with them at the end of the alley.

“I didn’t think twice about doing it,” said Ian, of East Herrington. “It just seemed the right thing to do.

“It was a bit worrying at first because you don’t know whether they’ve got a knife or what with them, but once the adrenaline kicked in we just did what we had to.

“We knew what they were doing was wrong and we knew we had to stop them.”

Robert, 31, of Shiney Row, added: “I definitely don’t see myself as a hero, just a good citizen.

“I probably would do it again, especially because they were caught. That makes it worthwhile.”

The pair will receive a chief constable’s commendation for bravery in the next few weeks.

The attack on the student on July 15 was the end of a terrifying campaign of street attacks Storey and Watts carried out in the Chester Road area.

On July 4, a 72-year-old out shopping was left bleeding, crying and screaming in pain – with bones broken in her foot and wrist – after being dragged to the ground by the thugs as she desperately clung on to the handbag they were trying to snatch.

The following day, a 64-year-old woman with a serious and painful back complaint was targeted on her way to a pharmacist with her husband, who was using a mobility scooter.

Storey, 50, of St Mark’s Crescent, Millfield, who was on a suspended sentence order at the time, yesterday admitted carrying out all three robberies.

He was jailed for six-and-a-half years.

Watts, 43, also of St Mark’s Crescent, who has convictions for 187 previous offences, admitted he was the getaway driver during the first and last attacks.

He was jailed for four years for two counts of robbery.

Sentencing, Recorder Robin Mairs said: “You were both in this together, your culpability is equal.

“These were offences which were planned, they were premeditated and the victims were targeted because of vulnerability.

“In all cases they were females on their own.”

Twitter: @sunechochief