THE manager of an Oxford jewellery shop has described how he was “terrified” as he tackled a robber to the ground.
Andrew Hill, above, manager of John Gowing Jewellers in Oxford’s Covered Market, was yesterday speaking at the inquest into the death of Clint Townsend, the robber he confronted.
Mr Townsend had attempted to break into the jewellers on the morning of March 30, 2013, but was tackled to the ground by several members of the public.
The 33-year-old was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Headington, where he later died after suffering from a cardiac arrest.
Mr Hill told the inquest how he confronted the robber when he started hitting the shop’s window with a sledgehammer.
He said: “I was terrified to be perfectly honest.
“Everything happened at 100mph. I heard a very big bang. It can only be described as an explosion. Then I heard a couple more and I was aware that someone was trying to break into the window.
“There was a person attacking the window with a sledgehammer and trying to break the window, at which point I went towards him to prevent this happening.
A forensic officer dusts a motorbike in the search for fingerprints
“He moved towards me with the sledgehammer in hand and seemed to swing it at me with quite a lot of force. It hit me on the shoulder and I got close enough to restrict his swinging.
“He then headbutted me while wearing a crash helmet.”
Several other people then assisted Mr Hill – including store owner John Gowing – but the exact number is unclear and in the ensuing chaos the group fell to the floor.
Police officers were called to the Covered Market at 9.16am to reports of someone attempting to break into the jewellers shop by smashing through the reinforced glass windows.
Mr Townsend, of Barton Road, was one of two robbers who had come into the Covered Market on a motorbike, the inquest heard.
Police look inside a wheelie bin in Turl Street
The coroner was told yesterday how police officers arrived at the scene at 9.21am and began carrying out CPR on Mr Townsend.
Officers cordoned off the area before paramedics arrived at 9.29am.
Mr Gowing, who has owned the store for around 40 years, said he was “devastated” to find out later that the man they had tackled to the floor had later died.
He told the court: “After a horrible experience it just made it even worse.
“He was a big, strong lad and it didn’t cross my mind for a second that the force we were using could lead to his death. There was a lot of weight of bodies of people sat on him.
“There were no blows or anything, we just all fell to the ground. The eventual outcome was devastating.”
Sarah Seaman, who was in the nearby barber’s shop with her husband, told the inquest how she suggested that the have-a-go heroes release Mr Townsend after hearing him say he couldn’t breathe.
But she said he said this in a “matter of fact” way and didn’t think this was a “serious call for help”.
Coroner Alison Thompson yesterday resumed the inquest into Mr Townsend’s death at County Hall.
Mr Townsend’s inquest will continue today when Ms Thompson will hear from pathologist Ashley Fegan-Earl and several of the police officers who attended the scene.
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