Popular Fratton newsagent owner left battered trying to fight off robbers
A POPULAR shop owner who ‘would do anything for anyone’ was left bruised after trying to fight off robbers who stormed into his newsagents and stole the till.
Long-serving pillar of the Fratton community Sanjay Patel, who runs Penhale News, was ambushed at 6pm on Tuesday by two masked men.
After strolling into the Penhale Road shop, the hooded assailants smashed through a door to the counter area before throwing it at Mr Patel’s head.
Punches then rained down on the beleaguered shop owner as he cried out for help before the incident spilled out into the road outside.
A shaken Mr Patel was left with a cut and bruise above his eye – resulting in a trip to Queen Alexandra Hospital.
The 52-year-old said of his ordeal: ‘There was no-one in the shop apart from me when the men came in and broke the door down (to get behind the counter) and threw it at me.
‘I was trying to resist as I was being punched and was shouting “help, help, help”. I got out of the shop and carried on shouting for help. One of the men followed me out while the other one was trying to smash open the till.’
After failing to open the till the men fled with it. It is not known how much money was inside. The robbers also broke a lottery machine.
Mr Patel, who runs the shop with his wife Rimala, told The News he was shocked by the robbery after never having any problems before.
He said: ‘No-one has even sworn at me in all the years I have been here so it is a shock what happened. We know 95 per cent of the people that come in here.’
The warmth towards the Patels and shock at the robbery was highlighted by scores of residents popping into the shop on Wednesday to show their support.
Angela Allen, 42, who has been going to Penhale News for 14 years, narrowly avoided the attack after leaving the newsagents minutes earlier following her daily visit there.
‘Everyone’s heard about it’, she said. ‘There are some sick people about. It’s such a shame because they are a lovely couple.’
She added: ‘It’s getting worse around here compared to years ago. A youth got stabbed in the neck a year ago around here.’
Tina Tyrell, 56, heard a melee from her house. ‘I heard loud shouting and there was a man in the road. But I couldn’t make out what was going on,’ she said.
‘Then a man wearing a puffer jacket and light coloured hat ran past before having a car follow him.’
Touching on the affection with which the shop owners are held, Ms Tyrell added: ‘I’ve lived here 33 years and my kids have grown up with their kids. They are a much-loved couple who would do anything for anyone.
‘One time I was on crutches and Sanjay carried my shopping down the road to my door for me.’
The strength of feeling for Mr Patel was previously highlighted when residents passionately opposed a new Spar shop opposite Penhale News after submitting three petitions to the council.
Ms Tyrell added: ‘The residents just said “we’re not having them do that to Sanjay”. We don’t need another shop. We’ve got Penhale News. Now the building is flats.’
A police spokesman said: ‘Two men entered the store before taking the till. Enquiries are ongoing. Anyone with information should call 101, quoting 44190444208.’