Pensioner praised for have-a-go heroics

A PINT-SIZED pensioner last night told how he saved his neighbour from being abducted by battering her knife-wielding attacker with his walking stick.Aubrey Woods, 78, described how he watched out of his window as his young neighbour Sarah Thornton was dragged out into the road screaming by Kevin McCarthy, whom she had briefly dated after they met through a singles agency.

A PINT-SIZED pensioner last night told how he saved his neighbour from being abducted by battering her knife-wielding attacker with his walking stick.

Aubrey Woods, 78, described how he watched out of his window as his young neighbour Sarah Thornton was dragged out into the road screaming by Kevin McCarthy, whom she had briefly dated after they met through a singles agency.

The 5ft 5ins tall pensioner - who is nicknamed Titch - went to help as fast as he could, repeatedly striking McCarthy over the head with his stick until he let go of his victim.

McCarthy, 46, who lived in Brandeston Road, Earl Soham, at the time of the incident, was jailed for almost four years at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday. He had pleaded guilty to attempted kidnap, wounding and affray at an earlier court hearing.


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Mr Woods, from Stowupland, who is now set to receive an award for his efforts on September 22 last year, said: "I didn't have any time to think. I just heard the girl screaming and looked out of the window and saw him dragging her out towards the road.

"I grabbed my walking stick and went out there and took one look at him and saw he had a knife and I thought I have to try and knock him out.

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"It wasn't easy. I had to struggle to get five blows before he eventually went down. All I was concerned about was the girl because she's a good neighbour.

"When I first went to school they used to read us stories about a knight in shining armour who saved a damsel in distress so you're duty bound to do the same. It's just the way I was brought up."

During the hearing, Judge John Devaux said he would be recommending Mr Woods for a certificate of commendation.

The court heard how Miss Thornton, a graphic designer from Stowupland, had met McCarthy through an agency early last year and the pair had been on a couple of dates together.

However, after she learned he was in financial difficulties and in debt she began to have doubts and decided to end the relationship.

McCarthy struggled to come to terms with the break-up and over the next few weeks watched Miss Thornton's home, sent her varied messages and followed her about.

Although police gave him a verbal harassment warning about his behaviour last year he turned up at her home on September 22 armed with a knife and a piece of rope.

He forced his way into her house and threatened to pour petrol over her but did not carry out the threat.

He then dragged her out of house and pushed her to her knees and brought the knife to her, causing a two-inch wound above her left eye and cuts to her neck, arms and thigh.

It was then that Mr Woods intervened and she was able to run back inside her home to call the police.

McCarthy was later found with a number of cuts to his wrists and an injury to his head.

In a police interview the following day he told officers he had not understood why the relationship had ended and he had felt shattered when it had finished.

Mitigating defence counsel Peter Rolls said: "The defendant is extremely sorry for what he has done and accepts that a prison sentence is inevitable.

"He has no history of violent behaviour and indeed it is not an incident that is born of a character that's displayed this conduct over a period of time."

The court also heard how McCarthy had given up the lease to his property in Earl Soham and was planning to move to Southampton to be with his mother when he came out of prison.

A charge of attempted murder had been denied by McCarthy and was ordered to remain on file.

Sentencing, Judge Devaux told McCarthy: "This was a very serious incident and I have no doubt that it had serious psychological impact on the victim.

"You rejected advice by police, making it an aggravating factor, and continued to contact her and indulged in an orgy of self pity.

"I have no option but to sentence you to a total of three years and 10 months imprisonment."

McCarthy was also made the subject of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order preventing him from coming within five miles of Miss Thornton's address and contacting her for the next 10 years.

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