A PLUCKY shopkeeper thwarted a knife- wielding robber by fighting him off with a fold-up stool.
Akbar Ali was serving customers at his family-run shop when the masked raider burst in brandishing an eight-inch knife and demanded cash.
CCTV footage showed the armed thug lunging over the counter with the blade while attempting to grab the till.
But Mr Ali battered his attacker with the flimsy stool until he was forced to retreat empty-handed.
Several customers were still in the A&S Premier Store in Fauldhouse, West Lothian, as the terrifying ordeal took place on Sunday night.
Mr Ali, 54, who lives in Fauldhouse, said: “I think the robber must have been waiting outside. He had his face covered with a scarf and a hood.
“I’ve lived in Fauldhouse all my life and I thought it was someone having a bit of a joke.
“When I realised what was happening I was shocked, but I didn’t want to let him away with the money.
“I lifted up the stool and began defending myself. He had this eight-inch kitchen knife and I kept hitting him with the stool.
“He kept coming back but eventually he just ran off.”
After fleeing the Sheephousehill premises, the man ran off in the direction of Barton Terrace.
He is described as white and tall with a stocky build, wearing a dark hooded top, blue jeans, brown Timberland boots, gloves and a grey Tammy hat.
A scarf or other item of clothing was covering his face.
In the last month, at least two other shopkeepers have been robbed at knifepoint – one in Musselburgh and one in Armadale – with the attackers making off with a four-figure sum.
The number of robberies in Edinburgh, which includes hold-ups against shopkeepers, has soared during the last year. A total of 461 robberies were carried out in the city between last April and March, compared with 399 for the same period a year before, a rise of 15 per cent.
Richard Dodd, spokesman for the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “There is no question that shop staff have to put up with far, far more than anyone should expect. We have just published some research that showed that 35,000 shop workers in the UK suffered physical or verbal abuse last year. It’s a huge problem.
“In extreme cases, it means serious attacks that can lead to permanent injuries or even deaths, and often the incidents happen as staff intervene to try and prevent thefts or robberies from happening.
“It is a myth that shop crime is just about people stealing a few low-value items that retailers can afford. It needs to be taken more seriously by politicians, members of the judiciary and people who set police priorities.
“This incident, and thousands of others, show that retail crime has a major human impact. I don’t think anyone can set down hard and fast guidelines about what people who face these situations should do.
“Nobody wants anybody to get hurt, but I can understand the frustration that shop owners and staff feel because they are subjected to crime on a very frequent basis.
“This is someone who is running a legitimate business trying to provide a living for themselves and a service to the community. There is no justification for having to face this sort of attack.”
Mr Ali has not allowed the incident to get in the way of his work and was back serving customers in the store the following day.
“You just have to get on with things,” he said. “I’ve had a shop in Fauldhouse for years and nothing like this has happened to me before.
“I would like to say to the public, if you know who this person is, please help the police to find him.”
His wife, Sheida Ali, 52, said: “It’s so frightening. I’ve worked in the shop for 25 years and never really worried but now I think, ‘what could be around the corner’?
“I only hope the police catch him soon before anyone else has to go through what we did.”
Lothian and Borders Police have appealed for witnesses to the incident.
A spokesman said: “The shopkeeper was very brave to fight this man off despite being presented with a knife.
“We are now keen to speak with anyone in the area at 5.45pm [on Sunday] and who remembers seeing anything or anyone suspicious.”
Anyone with any information can contact Lothian and Borders Police on 0131-311 3131 or the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Stores targeted by armed attackers
SHOPS have become targets for armed robbers all too often in recent years in Edinburgh and the Lothians.
Just last week, police launched a hunt for a knife-wielding robber who made off with a three-figure sum from a convenience store in Livingston.
It followed a similarly terrifying ordeal in Armadale last month, when two newsagent staff were held up at knifepoint and forced to empty the contents of a safe.
A spate of the armed robberies took place in January in the Capital, when the same two men apparently targeted stores in Broomhouse Road twice within a matter of days, demanding cigarettes and alcohol.
In November last year, a 27-year-old woman was left traumatised after she was held up by thugs who brandished a blade.
She was forced to wait 15 minutes at Winehouse off-licence in Slateford Road, while they waited for a time-locked safe to open.
But Akbar Ali is not the only shopkeeper to take the fight to the robbers.
In October, Mohammed Ali, who owns El Mexicano greengrocer shop in Muirhouse, beat a robber who had struck him with an axe into submission with his stick, then chased him down the street.
In 2008, the brave manageress of an RS McColl store at the Sighthill Shopping Centre used copies of the Evening News which were on the counter to beat off an armed robber who had tried to steal the shop’s takings.