Her lips were still trembling, and her arthritic legs, tightly bandaged, were throbbing as one of several alleged would-be jewelry store bandits picked himself up from his fallen motor scooter. He raised the sledgehammer in his hand, and for a moment stood “eyeball to eyeball” with the 71-year-old grandmother with the flaming red hair who had waded into a brazen daylight robbery armed only with a handbag.
And then the sledgehammer dropped to the ground. It was over; the young thug and his cohorts had been bested by Ann Timson, the feisty, purse-swinging septuagenarian who has gained international fame as England’s “Super Granny.”
“I’m not a hero or a heroine or a ‘super gran,’ ” Timson told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Wednesday, accompanied to the show by her son, Andre Dash, and her 5-year-old granddaughter, Charlie Dash. “I’m just a mum that went in thinking a kid was getting hit.”
‘In for a penny, in for a pound’
Timson leaped into action — and into the headlines — when she single-handedly attacked a band of six thieves outfitted with helmets and camouflage clothing who were attempting to hammer through the plate glass windows of a Northampton, England, jewelry store in broad daylight. The entire episode was caught on tape, and Timson’s ninja-like moves have been viewed worldwide.
But Timson told Vieira she had no idea at first that she was breaking up a robbery. She was half a block away when the incident began, and from her vantage, it looked as if the thugs were attacking someone. Rather than standing by, she moved as fast as her arthritic legs would carry her toward the center of the storm.
Though she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis — sometimes so painfully that she is confined to a wheelchair — Timson was on her feet that day; in fact, she had bandaged her legs so she could attend a dance class.
“The legs, they would have collapsed if I had run, so I wouldn’t have said it was a run,” Timson said of her advance on the would-be robbers. “It was an amble. I paid the penalty for it the next few days.”
Only when she got closer did Timson realize that what she was seeing was not a random street beating, but a robbery in progress. She didn’t turn back.
“In for a penny, in for a pound,” was her first thought, Timson told Vieira; “I think the adrenaline got going. The second thought was, ‘How dare they do a daylight robbery?’ ”
With all the fury she could muster, Timson began flailing at the gang with her large pocketbook, despite their helmets. “Hopefully it would distract them from doing what they were doing,” she explained.
A crowd had gathered to watch, she told Vieira, but at first, no one stepped forward to help the courageous grandmother battle the bandits. “I think they were mesmerized,” she said.
Veteran crime fighter
Or maybe they didn’t have the kind of crime-fighting experience Timson had. His mother is no vigilante, son Andre Dash told Vieira, but she’s always been quick to help those in need or danger. Before she retired in 1999, she spent 17 years as a warden, checking on the welfare of her neighbors in Spring Boroughs, a housing project that was plagued by drugs and prostitution.
She also became vice-chair of the Residents Association and in doing so played a major part in the decisions that have turned her community crime-free — including fencing to block off pathways frequented by drug dealers, dubbed “rat runs,” and improving lighting and cutting down bushes to take away hiding places for criminals.
But in confronting the failed jewel robbers, Timson took a more direct approach. As the bandits tried to flee, she told Vieira, Timson repeated with each swing, “Get off, go off, and go off again.”
Even as they attempted to flee, she managed to knock one of the crew off-balance on his getaway scooter. He toppled over, fell to the ground, and then raised his sledgehammer as if to threaten her.
“We just stood up, eyeball to eyeball, and he just put it down,” Timson recalled Wednesday. “I think he realized I was just an old biddy anyway.”
Then, at last, the bystanders took action, detaining the would-be bandits until police arrived. As Timson stood there, trying to catch her breath, the full force of what she had done finally hit her, she told Vieira.
And what was her first thought? “Ooh, my God: What will my son think?” she said.
In a later segment Wednesday in which she responded to questions from TODAY viewers, Timson said she was a bit surprised by the international acclaim her actions have spurred: “I'm absolutely overwhelmed by the fact that people would find this so important.”
After all, she told TODAY’s Natalie Morales, she had never been alone standing her ground at the housing estate. “A lot of other people did,” she said, and all were motivated by the same thing: “Why should we be moved from our homes that we love? Our neighborhood is so strong in community spirit, why should we run from it? It’s ours.”
Would Timson take on half a dozen hammer-wielding hooligans again? “Given the circumstances, that I thought a child was being attacked, yes, I would do that again,” she said. But, she added prudently, “The one thing I would do differently is get away as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile, the owners of the jewelry store have also been in contact with Timson and have offered to make a donation “to the charity of my choice,” she said, adding: “They were really very nice people.”
And there is one other postscript to the story, Timson told Vieira: Her son, Andre, is working with her to put her pocketbook — a crime-fighting tool now nearly as famous as Superman’s cape or Batman’s utility belt — on sale. The proceeds, she said, will be donated to help people in need.