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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 12:44 GMT
'I got up and realised I was still alive'
By Chris Summers
BBC News

Jagdish Patel survived being shot at close range during a post office robbery in Greater Manchester. He and a friend chased the robbers and ended up catching them. Both robbers have since been convicted.

Jagdish Patel in his shop İMEN Syndication
Name: Jagdish Patel
Date: 25 October 2005
Age: 37
Place: Rochdale, Greater Manchester

Tuesday 25 October 2005 started off just like any other day for Jagdish Patel, who runs a post office and shop in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

He opened up at 0900 and busied himself with his usual duties as customers started coming in to buy groceries, post letters and pick up their pensions.

His wife, Amita, was working with him, as were his 62-year-old father, Kantilal, and a shop assistant, Leanne Wild.

At 1055 the shop was full of customers when two men wearing motorcycle crash helmets suddenly entered the shop and began waving guns around.

One of them approached the post office desk and took a customer hostage, with a gun pointed at his head, while the other went up to the counter, where Jagdish was standing.

"He said he wanted some money. I was trying to work out if the gun was real or not," he told the BBC News website.

Mr Patel takes on the robber
I fell back and realised that I was still alive, I thought it must be a blank - it was only later I realised it had left flecks of gun residue on my forehead
Jagdish Patel

"I bent down slightly under the counter, and he started panicking and pistol-whipped me a couple of times. I blanked out for a nanosecond and when I came to, I felt liquid running down my back but I didn't realise it was blood," he said.

Mr Patel said he understood that what he did next was extremely dangerous, but he just lost his temper because of the unnecessary level of violence employed by the robbers.

"I picked up a baseball bat and vaulted the counter. As I went for him, he shot at me. It went just past my head by a whisker.

"I fell back and realised that I was still alive. I thought it must be a blank. It was only later I realised it had left flecks of gun residue on my forehead."

The robbers, shocked by Mr Patel's reaction, fled the shop but he ran after them with his father and a friend who was in the shop at the time.

The robbers had climbed onto a motorbike but could not get it started. Mr Patel's friend kicked the bike over and the pair fled on foot in different directions.

While his friend pursued one of them, Mr Patel chased the other through a nearby housing estate.

After a 10-minute chase he finally caught the robber and handed him over to the police.

His friend saw the man he was pursuing stop and fire two shots at him after shouting: "I'm going to kill you". Both shots missed, and the robber was then overpowered.

'Drug debts'

In July last year the robbers were jailed at Liverpool Crown Court. John Welsby, 27, was given 13 years and Aiden Martin, 18, got six years and eight months.

Welsby, who pleaded guilty to attempted murder, firearms offences and attempted robbery, claimed he had carried out the robbery to pay off debts to his drug dealer.

A still from the robbery CCTV
One of the men held a gun at a customer's head

The judge, Mr Justice Openshaw, commended Mr Patel and his friend and awarded them £500 each for their bravery. He described the robbers as "incompetent, ineffectual and cowardly".

Mr Patel said 80 customers and residents of the Buersil area of Rochdale gave statements to the police, and he added: "If you have a community which is willing to back you up like that, an assailant hasn't got a cat in hell's chance."

The guns in question turned out to be part of a batch of imitation weapons which were imported from Germany by a gang in Manchester who then converted them to fire lethal ammunition.

The bullet which missed Mr Patel lodged in the ceiling of his shop and the mark is still there as a reminder of the robbery.

He said: "Apparently they weren't terribly accurate because they'd been converted. I only survived because they weren't accurate."

Mr Patel said he felt the 13-year sentence was not harsh enough for Welsby, and he said the robbery had left him and his family, staff and customers badly shaken-up.

"I have three daughters and the youngest one, Priya, who's four, is still quite shook up. She saw the CCTV footage when it was played back and she got quite upset," he said.

He said: "I have a sign asking people to take off their crash helmets but if they do come in with their helmet on, it still sends a chill up my spine. I'll never lose that experience."

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