Bravery of Chatham Salvation Army member praised after fighting off thug Daryl Cook armed with wooden pole
A 68-year-old Salvation Army member bravely fought off a bare-chested thug armed with a wooden pole as he tried to snatch her car keys, a court heard.
Valerie Smith was confronted by Daryl Cook as she parked her car in Lester Road, Chatham, in July last year.
Cook, 30, demanded her keys and claimed he was being chased.
Daryl Cook has been jailed for three years and four months
But Ms Smith refused, telling him to "back off", and when Cook snatched the keys, Maidstone Crown Court heard she grabbed them back.
She later told police she thought he was "more desperate than threatening".
Her reaction to the robbery was described by Judge Michael Carroll as "remarkable and humbling", as was the reaction of another victim, Nigel Garrett.
He was confronted by Cook on the forecourt of the Shell petrol station in Maidstone Road, Rochester, the previous day.
Brandishing a knife and - at one stage - holding it to Mr Garrett's neck, Cook again demanded his car keys.
However, the father-of-six was unable to start the Smart car and eventually fled on foot.
Valerie Smith was targeted in Lester Road, Chatham
The court heard Mr Garrett later told police the robbery had not had a large impact on his life.
He added while that "may sound blase" it was because "other factors" had to be taken into account, including the unexpected death of his 22-year-old son from a heart attack a month earlier.
Mr Garrett stated: "In a strange way I am glad this happened to me rather than someone else.
"If this had happened to somebody elderly, frail or vulnerable, their life could have changed forever."
"It appears you now realise you cannot self-medicate in the future and you have got to leave it up to the professionals..." - Judge Michael Carroll
Hearing what both Ms Smith and Mr Garett had told police, Judge Michael Carroll said: "It is remarkable in a case of robbery that both victims, and certainly Mr Garrett, could be so magnanimous. It is quite humbling."
Cook, of Symons Avenue, Chatham, admitted two offences of robbery on July 6 and July 7, 2013.
The court heard at the time he had stopped taking his medication for mental health issues.
When he robbed Ms Smith, he was in a state of psychosis and believed he was under threat from "psychotic hunters", said Daniel Lister, defending.
Jailing Cook for three years and four months, the judge said aggravating features of the case included Cook being armed with a weapon on both occasions, being subject to a community order for criminal damage and being in breach of a night-time curfew at the time of the petrol station robbery.
But Judge Carroll added: "It is clear to me that the real problem here was your self-medicating. It appears you now realise you cannot self-medicate in the future and you have got to leave it up to the professionals."
Prosecutor Piers Wauchope said Cook's attempt to take Mr Garrett's Smart car was foiled when he failed to work out how to start the ignition.
He sat in the vehicle for up to five minutes until he eventually gave up and fled.
Mr Garrett was confronted by Cook at 9.30pm on July 6, demanding: "Give me your car keys".
Mr Garrett at first thought it was a joke, but the demand was repeated and so he threw his car keys to the ground.
"Cook had a large kitchen knife in his hand and it was put up to Mr Garrett's neck," said Mr Wauchope.
Having demanded his phone, Cook then patted Mr Garrett's pockets before asking for money.
Mr Garrett threw his wallet containing about £20 and his debit cards to the ground before backing away and alerting staff in the petrol station.
Cook then got into the vehicle, which the prosecutor said had several "unusual features", including the ignition.
The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court
"He sat in the car for a few minutes trying to start it up," said Mr Wauchope. "Mr Garrett was worried he would be chased by Cook and so made a phone call from a nearby house.
"Cook stayed in the car for as long as five minutes trying to start it, before getting out and walking off, taking Mr Garrett's wallet."
Ms Smith had just returned home from a Salvation Army meeting when she was confronted by Cook at lunchtime on July 7.
As she opened the driver's door she noticed he was not wearing a top and his body was heavily scratched as if he had been through brambles, said the prosecutor.
"He was carrying what she thought was a wooden rounders bat, but it could have been a chair leg which was later recovered from his bedroom, and was 2ft long," he added.
Cook demanded the car keys, but Ms Smith refused. When he told her he needed help as he was being chased, the pensioner replied: "Back off, back off. Ring the police. If you don't I will."
It was then that Cook snatched the keys. "She grabbed them back," said Mr Wauchope. "They were both struggling with them."
"The keys fell to the ground and the key fob had been bent from the pressure. Cook then made off."
He was arrested five days later after his DNA was found in Mr Garrett's car and through "high quality" CCTV.
Letters from Cook, his fiancee and his mother, who were both in court, were handed to the judge.
Mr Lister said Cook, whom he described as someone who "loves his family and loves his children", had stopped taking his medication in the belief it would go against him in a custody battle with his former partner.
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