When a pair of knife-wielding thugs targeted a wheelchair user, they thought he would be an easy target.
But when they approached Roger Mercer on a canal towpath and demanded his mobile phone, they didn’t bank on the 6ft 7ins Army veteran fighting back.
Roger, 38, refused to hand over his phone, swiping the eight-inch curved blade out one of the yob’s hands and flooring him with a single blow.
The dad-of-five then pushed his thumb into the eye socket of the other assailant as he tried to grab the wheelchair from behind and get him in a headlock.
The cowardly duo pushed Roger over but had to flee empty-handed from the scene in Blacon, Chester, at around 7.45 pm on Sunday.
Roger – who served with the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment for nearly 11 years until he suffered a serious spinal injury whilst serving in Afghanistan in 2007 – said: “I saw someone ahead of me and I stopped dead.
“This one lad had a hoody which was pulled tight around his face and he was holding a curved blade, between six and eight inches long.
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He went on: “I was able to get the blade out of his hand straight away and it got thrown to the side. I also sent him flying. He was there going ‘what the hell?’ He probably wasn’t expecting a wheelchair user to fight back.
“Someone else then grabbed me from behind but I managed to get my thumb into his right eye socket. He let go very quickly. The other guy kicked or pushed me over and then ran off.”
Roger said he had self-defence training in the Army and spent two years in Northern Ireland as well as Bosnia and Afghanistan, so is used to “the rough stuff”.
“I wasn’t fazed. I just thought ‘they’re not having my phone, I’ve earned that’,” he added. “They must have thought ‘easy pickings’ but they got more than they bargained for.”
The ex-serviceman, who regularly takes part in marathons in his wheelchair for charity, had been training for the Chester Half Marathon when the attack happened on the Millennium Greenway path.
“I had just done five miles and had my head down when the men appeared in front of me,” said the veteran, who now teaches survival skills to cubs and scouts in his hometown of Blacon.
“I’m actually more miffed than upset about what happened – I’ve seen what bad people can be like but it’s just more that they had the cheek to think I was a victim in a chair and steal my phone.”
One of the suspects is described as a white man, between 5ft 8ins and 6ft, in his mid-twenties with a muscular build and a Liverpool accent.
He was wearing a dark coloured hoodie and had his hood up and pulled tight as well as dark gloves.
There is no description of the second man but police say he may have sustained scratch marks to his face.
Detective Constable Tom Philpotts, of Cheshire Police, said: “This was an opportunistic robbery by thieves who thought they could prey on a defenseless disabled man in order to steal his phone.
“In this case the victim was extremely brave and lucky to be able to fight off his attackers, preventing them from causing him serious harm or taking his phone.
“However others may not be able to protect themselves and therefore we urge anyone who may know these two men or have any information to come forward and call 101.”
(Top picture: SWNS)