Dagenham pensioner fights off intruder

An arthritic pensioner fought off a would-be home intruder with a “brain-wobbling” punch to the head she learnt in council-run self-defence classes.

The conman, clad head-to-toe in PPE, tricked his way into 71-year-old Kaye Parish’s Dagenham bungalow on Friday May 22 posing as a college volunteer handing out bottles of hand sanitiser to the elderly and vulnerable.

Once through the front door he pushed her up against a wall and demanded cash.

Mrs Parish, who has rheumatoid arthritis, said her 5ft 9in assailant was wearing an orange high-vis vest, boiler suit, surgical mask, blue surgical gloves and sunglasses and carrying a fake ID.

“He told me he had sanitiser and handed me two bottles,” she said. “I thought ‘how nice, what a lovely thing to do’.

“I was putting them on my hallway table when he asked about the photo of my late husband there. I went to put the photo down and he grabbed me and pushed me so hard up against the wall. It was terrifying.

“He was shouting ‘give me your money’. I said ‘I don’t have any money’.

“I remembered my self-defence classes and this slap our teacher taught us where it wobbles the brain and makes the person disoriented. So I did that and he looked shocked but screamed about money again. I just hit him again and he ran off.”

Mrs Parish, who has lived alone since her husband Charlie died six years ago, had been regularly attending Barking and Dagenham council’s ‘Young at Heart’ self-defence classes before the lockdown.

Medication she takes for her arthritis means she has had to shield since the beginning of the pandemic and has barely left her home since March.

She said: “I miss Charlie every day. I was so scared but he must’ve been looking down on me and given me the strength to see off that man.

“At the moment the outside world is scary for the old and the vulnerable but you should be able to feel safe in your own home.

“I’m so grateful for those classes and my teacher, Jason. He made us practice that head slap move over and over again so it would become second nature. It saved me.”

The council is running free online exercise classes during the lockdown.

Councillor Sade Bright, cabinet member for skills and aspiration, said: “It is really important that we all keep active especially during the lockdown and the council’s healthy lifestyle service has a number of programmes on offer.

“It’s great to hear that Kaye was able to protect herself due to the training that she was given and I’m very proud of her.”

Police have warned residents in the area to be vigilant.

The timetable of online classes can be found at: https://www.lbbd.gov.uk/newme-healthy-lifestyle


Rachael Burford

Local Democracy Reporter