One-legged man robbed in street

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 26/11/2013
Peter Blake
MURRAY WILSON/Fairfax NZ

UNFRIENDLY WELCOME: New Palmerston North resident Peter Blake was astounded to have his bag snatched off his wheelchair.

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A disabled man new to Palmerston North has had a rough introduction to the city - he was in a wheelchair when his bag was snatched by a thief.

The adage that bad things come in threes couldn't have been more true for Peter Blake, whose trio of misfortunes started with having his wallet stolen off his wheelchair.

Blake, 63, gets about in a wheelchair after losing a leg to acute diabetes three years ago.

He was in a motorised chair on his way from his home, at Abbeyfield House in Vogel St, into town on Friday when his bag was snatched outside Terrace End School in Ruahine St shortly after midday.

Blake said that he watched a young man, described as pale, tall, with an athletic build, playing with a soccer ball, approach and carry on walking past him, but he didn't think anything of it.

The next thing he knew, the same youth had snatched his bag - a small black pouch containing his wallet and cellphone - off the arm of his wheelchair, and was running away with it.

A witness - a woman on the other side of the road with two children - yelled at the man and tried to chase him, but he was too quick.

She later told Blake she had seen the young man turn around after walking past him, and start to walk, then run back toward him, grabbing his bag off the handle on the way past.

She took him into the school and police were contacted.

But that wasn't the end of his woes.

On his way out of the school, his wheelchair broke down, requiring a technician to come out and get it going again.

Then, as he finally got on his way, his chair got stuck in a grate.

But there was one bright spot to the otherwise disastrous day - his black bag and cellphone were returned to him after a student found them on the school grounds.

His cellphone had been returned to factory settings, but was otherwise OK, he said.

His wallet, however, was "long gone".

Blake said he was on an invalid's benefit, and didn't have much left over after paying for his accommodation. "I'm basically on the bones of my backside, I've got no card to get money out, the last few coins in my wallet are gone, I'm pretty well skint."

Although just three weeks into his Palmerston North residency, he doesn't think less of the city for it.

The theft was opportunistic, and he felt lucky that he hadn't been hurt, he said.

But he'll be tucking his bag down the back of his chair in future, "virtually sitting on it".

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- Manawatu Standard

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