Coffee shop owner fights off masked gunman

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A COFFEE shop owner bravely fought off an armed man, who burst into his home on Christmas Eve wielding a sawn-off shotgun.

Benji Rogers said he was ‘petrified’ after the masked man confronted him in his living room and demanded money and jewellery.

But he left empty-handed after Benji tackled the intruder and forced him out of the front door.

Benji, who owns Benji’s Coffee Shop in Market Square, left work for the day at 1pm and enjoyed an afternoon in London before arriving back home at Coronation Gardens in Battle at 7.45pm.

The 48-year-old had settled down to watch a film when the uninvited guest burst through the unlocked front door.

Benji told the Observer: “The door burst open and there was this chap standing there with a sawn-off shotgun, demanding money.

“He said: ‘Give me your money, give me your wallet, give me your jewellery’.

“I was just so scared I said: ‘I haven’t got anything’.

“I was so petrified.”

But despite his terror at having a gun pointed at him in his own home, brave Benji managed to push the assailant back out the front door, bolting it shut behind him.

He said: “I put myself into danger because the adrenaline kicked in.

“I pushed him in the lower chest and pushed him through the door.”

In a panic and struggling to breathe, Benji called his sister.

Police arrived at the scene a short time later.

Benji said: “I was in a state.

“I’m 48 and a big chap, but I was petrified.

“I have never been so scared in my life.”

No shots were fired although Benji did receive an injury to his shoulder in the struggle.

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Benji said the man seemed to know he owned a coffee shop.

The intruder is described as aged 25-30, 5’8” tall, wearing a black woollen balaclava and black puffa jacket with a diamante pattern and silver buttons down the front.

The shotgun was double-barrelled and mottled brown in colour.

Benji spent Christmas morning at the police station giving a statement to CID officers before his friend Darren, from Abbey Pet Foods, invited the businessman for Christmas dinner.

He spend the rest of the festive season with his sisters before returning to work on Tuesday.

He said: “I came in and I took the decorations down.

“I want to forget this Christmas.”

Benji has appealed for anyone with any information, including any witnesses who saw in which direction the assailant fled, to contact police.

It is the second time this year that Benji has been the target for thieves.

Back in June, intruders forced open the back window of his shop and stole £150 and drinks from the cabinet in an overnight burglary.

But police say the latest offence is not believed to be linked to the break in or any other incidents.

Sergeant Paul Masterson, of Battle police, said: “We are pushing forward in this investigation and we would like anyone who could help in identifying this person to come forward.

“If anyone knows this person, or suspects this person of having this weapon, we would ask them not to challenge them, but call us.”

Sgt Masterson added “This is a very unusual situation for Battle and not something for people to worry about.

“It is a rare occurrence.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Sussex Police on 101 quoting serial 1572 of 24/12.

Alternatively, call independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.