A waiter who tackled a member of an axe-wielding, burka-clad gang after a smash-and-grab raid at Selfridges has denied being a hero – saying he did “what any human being would do”.
Mohamed Hussein, who works in a pizza restaurant, ran out and pinned down one of the robbers near the department store in Oxford Street in central London.
The 29-year-old bodybuilder and law student, described as a “Vin Diesel action hero,” held the man with the help of others nearby. Yesterday, he said: “I feel confident anyone would do this. I am no hero.”
Scotland Yard said a group of six men, all dressed in burkas, entered the store at about 8.30pm, just before closing time on Thursday. Witnesses said it appeared the men had disguised themselves as rich Arab women, with some carrying designer handbags. They mingled with hundreds of shoppers before producing axes and smashing their way into display cabinets, stuffing dozens of watches worth tens of thousands of pounds into bags. They fled and jumped on to at least three waiting motorcycles.
Anuj Dabeesingh, 22, a student from Uxbridge, who was shopping in the menswear section on the first floor, said: “I saw four men completely in burkas, posing as women carrying women’s handbags. At first I thought it was a shot, a spray of glass shattering, breaking – we heard that and people were just running about.
“I saw a staff member lying on the ground and then we saw four men running, trying to get away. That all happened in under a minute.”
Two of the raiders got on to a moped but it crashed yards from Selfridges. One, dressed in a burka, struggled to rise after breaking his leg and the other, in a bike helmet, was wrestled to the ground by Mr Hussein.
Matthew Carrozo, 28, a visual marketing manager from east London, who had been having a drink near where the moped crashed, said: “All of a sudden this guy who looks like Vin Diesel came out and pinned the guy in the bike helmet to the ground. He struggled but people started pouncing on this guy.
“They held him down for about 10 minutes until the police arrived.There were about six or seven really expensive watches strewn across the road and dozens in the duffle bag which had come open a bit.”
Scotland Yard praised the “brave and quick-thinking” people who tackled two members of the gang. One thief was being treated in hospital for a broken leg and the man cornered by Mr Hussein was being interviewed at a central London police station. Two other stolen motorcycles were found in the Paddington area.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Noyes, of the Flying Squad, said: “This was a brazen robbery and appears to have been well planned and thought through. Fortunately, no one was injured. The store was very busy and this will have been a shocking thing for people to witness.
“I would like to thank those members of the public who stepped in and detained our two suspects. Their quick thinking and brave actions have helped our investigation.”
Police appealed for anyone who witnessed the robbery to contact them.