Belfast Telegraph

Have-a-go hero grandfather tries to stop car Derry thief thug

By Leona O'Neill

A grandfather from Londonderry who wrestled with a thief who took a young woman's vehicle and dragged her through a car park has said he would do it again in a heartbeat.

Former professional boxer Damien McDermott from Kylemore Park in the city has been hailed a hero after trying to stop the man, who struck in the car park of a busy Ballymagroarty shopping centre on Saturday evening.

The 62-year-old twice wrangled with the thug in a bid to stop him and was thrown out of a speeding vehicle as the man made his escape through a built-up area.

"I was in Mass with my wife when a lady with a baby walked in very upset," he said.

"She said that she had been in the shopping centre next door and that a man had pulled a knife out on her as she got back to her car with her baby.

"She said that her baby started to cry and that scared him off.

"She said the man went further down the car park and was trying to steal another car, so I ran down."

When he arrived, Mr McDermott said there was a car running, a young woman shouting and a man revving the engine.

"The young woman who owned the car was in the passenger side with the door open," he explained.

"I shouted in to him to get out and I ran around to the driver's side and tried the handle.

"But he drove off at speed with the young woman half-hanging out of the car before I could get the door opened.

"I was shouting to her to let go as I knew that when he went out of the car park he would be able to pick up speed and I was sure she would be killed.

"He was driving hard then doing emergency stops.

"Half her body was hanging out of the car being dragged along the ground.

"He spun around and she was thrown right out of the car onto the road and he took off."

As there was only one exit from the car park, the fearless grandad ran over and caught up with the car as the thief was about to head onto the main road.

"I got into the passenger side, I jumped on him and I pulled the hoodie up over his head and tried to get the keys from him.

"There is a housing estate just outside the car park and I could see little children running around and playing. I didn't want them to get hurt.

"I had one knee outside the car and the other on the passenger seat, but he got the car in gear and sped off and got away from me."

Mr McDermott said that he is no hero, and as the father of five daughters, he just acted on instinct.

"We are very lucky that no one was killed," he added.

"I don't think I'm a hero.

"I think the guy who did this is a coward, to try and steal the cars of two young women.

"I have five daughters and I would do anything to protect them. I was just working on instinct."

Police said later they had arrested a 29-year-old man on suspicion of hijacking a vehicle at Springtown Shopping Centre alongside the attempted robbery of a commercial premises at Abercorn Road in the city.

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