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Petanque club pensioners 'hog-tie' burly intruder

'Trussed up like a chicken' is how a skin-headed man with tattoos ended up, after taking on the mainly elderly members of the Christchurch Petanque Club who found him hiding in the ladies' loo. The pensioners yesterday became crime fighters as they turned up for their regular game.

Executive committee member Noeline Price said members had opened up the North Hagley Park clubrooms as usual about 11.00am to find the trophy cabinet smashed, and 'anything of value' ... including the vacuum cleaner ... gathered ready for a cleanout.

One of the women members tried to enter the ladies' toilets, alerting other members the door was locked, before a very large tattooed man aged in his 30s or 40s tried to push past. 'He'd locked himself in the ladies' loo and we didn't know we'd disturbed him ...' she said. 'He burst out of the loo, he couldn't get out any other way.'  Price said the ensuing struggle was like an episode of the Keystone Cops.

A very brave man, Bob Vernal, took him in a flying tackle and brought him down on asphalt. 'We're all old age pensioners ... anyway we're all young at heart and all formed round him and held him down until the police arrived,' Price said.

Vernal downplayed his leading tackle role, saying he probably would have been red-carded for the elbow into the jaw tackle had it taken place on the rugby field. 'A few went flying, got pushed out of the way,' he said. 'He was a big guy, and he just charged his way out. As he was going he was just pushing the elderly folk aside. I thought someone is going to go down here and break a hip or something. Fortunately, I got my elbow into his jaw and locked him up.'

The immediate past president of the club, Ivan Hansen, said there was a serious side to the matter ... the man had a knife hidden in his clothes, which was found by police during a search at the scene. He had reported a burglary to the police, before the members found the man was still on the premises.

The tattooed man punched one male club member in the neck and shoved one woman out of the way. Hansen said the man was strong and continued to struggle throughout the ordeal.

'He struggled like mad; he had people sitting on top of him holding him to the ground. He was very violent. One of the ladies went away and found a rope somewhere ... he was trussed up like a chicken when the police arrived. To be held on the ground by guys who are all retired made a bit of a goat out of him.'

Hansen said it was hilarious that later the man's apparent girlfriend came into the clubrooms searching for him, and asking as to his whereabouts. 'I said has he got a lot of tattoos ?' She said `Yeah.' I said `Well, I can tell you where you can find him ... in the police station.'

A police spokeswoman said a man had been arrested over the incident, and officers had found him 'hog-tied' at the clubrooms.

Alan Wood
The Press, 12 December 2005



Christchurch Petanque Club
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