Ex-bodyguard chases robbers out of shop with pole

Muhammad Afzal Hanif with the pole he keeps behind the shop counter. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Muhammad Afzal Hanif with the pole he keeps behind the shop counter. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Two teenage thugs who tried to rob a newsagent were sent scampering into the night – after they messed with the wrong shopkeeper.

The pair barged into Fernie-side Newsagents at about 8pm on Wednesday with hoods up and scarves covering their faces, demanding money.

Police are looking for the suspects. Picture: Julie Bull

Police are looking for the suspects. Picture: Julie Bull

But owner Muhammad Afzal Hanif – a former bodyguard to Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif – had other ideas.

The dad-of-three pretended to reach down to his till to hand over the cash but grabbed a metal pole stashed beneath the counter and chased the would-be robbers out of his shop in Fernieside Crescent.

It isn’t the first time the 47-year-old has successfully defended his store.

In 2008, Mr Hanif – who spent eight years in the Pakistani security police before moving to Scotland to marry – saw off a knife-wielding robber who attempted to force him to hand over cash as he was shutting up shop for the night at his old store in Stockbridge.

I just scared them off – it’s a good thing I didn’t hit them, as the police could charge me.”

Muhammad Afzal Hanif

Adopting a karate attack position learned in the army, the commando-trained shop boss squared up to the thug and sent him packing.

In yesterday’s News, Paul Baxter, chief executive of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, warned that shopkeepers in the Capital faced more danger than police officers following a string of violent incidents. But Mr Hanif played down his heroics, insisting he was not “100 per cent brave”.

He said: “I don’t fear them – I used to fight every day. If somebody comes in like that, I can defend myself.

“If you believe in God, you don’t need to feel frightened of anyone. One day, everybody will pass – nobody is permanent. There’s good and bad everywhere. That’s why I’m just trying my best.”

The would-be thieves were white and between 14 and 18 years old, with local accents. And Mr Hanif said he knew they were dodgy as soon as they entered his shop and refused to put down their hoods or uncover their faces.

He said: “When they came in, I told them to remove their hoods and show their faces, otherwise I would phone the police – but they didn’t listen to me. They came up to the counter and said, ‘Hurry up and open the till’. I was like, ‘Are you joking? Are you mad?’

“But they said they weren’t, and told me to give them the money from the till or they would hit me. So I pretended to reach for the money and instead grabbed the metal pole I keep by the till for my safety.

“They ran away at full speed. There was another one outside, and I followed them and they were shouting and swearing at me. I should have closed the shutters of the shop to stop them getting out.

“I just scared them off – it’s a good thing I didn’t hit them, as the police could charge me.”

One of the teenage suspects was wearing a dark hooded tracksuit with a white or light-coloured zipper and a light-coloured panel at the tip of his hood, while the other wore a royal blue Adidas tracksuit with three light blue stripes down each arm and on the hood. Both had their hoods up and scarves covering their mouths.

Detective Inspector Alan O’Brien said: “Thanks to the bravery of the victim, the suspects left empty handed.”