A father-of-two who bravely confronted 10 men armed with iron bars and a sledgehammer as they tried to rob his cash and carry has been killed after he was pushed under a moving lorry while chasing the gang.
Shammi Atwal, 44, was praised by police as he attempted to protect both his wife and his business from the thugs who were described as white men. He was shoved onto the road as he fought the raiders.
Scotland Yard said up to 10 men entered the Glen & Co Cash and Carry in Barking, Essex, on Monday morning before they were confronted by Mr Atwal. He co-owned the business, a wholesale distributor of beers, wines, ales and snacks, and supplies several local pubs, with his wife for seven years.
Alan Suleyman, a neighbouring trader, said: “He got robbed, then he got run over, which I heard happened after [Mr Atwal] went after one of the robbers. It’s absolutely shocking. We have had robberies here before but this is unbelievable.”
Police have launched a murder inquiry and are asking for the public’s help in tracking down the gang.
Detective Chief Inspector Neale Baldock, who is leading the murder investigation, said: “This was a man trying to stop thieves robbing his business. He acted bravely in defence of his wife and managed to chase the robbers from his premises only for him to be pushed in front of a moving lorry.
“People in the community know who committed this appalling and cowardly crime and I would urge them to contact my officers.”
Mr Atwal’s 37-year-old widow, Deepa, suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene. She is said by relatives to be “devastated” at the tragedy. His uncle Tarsem Singh, 65, described his nephew as an “honourable hard working family man.”
He said: “He worked very, very hard and the rest of the time was spent with his family or at the Sikh Gurdwara [place of worship]. He had a good business because he was dedicated. He did charity work at the Sikh Gurdwaras in Ilford and Barking. He would help anyone out. He will be so missed by so many people. He was very honourable and one of the nicest people you could meet and a wonderful father.”
Friends of Mr Atwal, from Chigwell, who has a four-year-old daughter and son, aged seven, also spoke of their shock while paying tribute to his heroism. Sohan Hare, 65, said: “I’m very shocked, horrified and sad that a good man like this, who was trying to do the right thing, has gone.
“He was a very hard worker for his family who was a very close friend and this is so unfortunate. He was loved by everyone. It’s absolutely terrible. He was a very energetic, very peaceful and a very decent man who would help anybody and everybody in the community.
“Some people went there who then tried to rob them, then there was a fight between the two sides, between the robbers and the people who were in [Glenn and Co], and the fight went from inside to outside. He was pushed into the road and into the lorry. It was about ten people who tried to rob it I think.”
The lorry driver, who stopped at the scene and was not arrested, was also said to be extremely shocked by what happened.
There have been no arrests and it is not known how the gang got away. A post-mortem is expected to be held later today.