AN ARMED man, who brandished a bolt action .303 rifle, made the big mistake of holding up a Nambucca Heads supermarket where former soldier Mark Fenech manned the counter this morning.
The relative of former World Champion boxer Jeff Fenech had just stacked bread in the family's Lucky 7 supermarket on Centenary Pde, when in walked a man holding a rifle covered by a towel around 7.30am.
Well prepared for a hold-up, Mark said his son Jarod, 12, followed procedure and hid inside the store as he dealt with the assailant.
"I took one look at it and realised it was a .303 probably of World War II vintage," Mark said.
"Because of my army training I realised there wasn't a breech or a magazine in the rifle and the firing pin was probably missing so I told him guns don't scare me mate.
"I've been shot twice in my life in training accidents I just don't fear guns.
"I know firearms and could tell this guy was just desperate.
"He had the gun pointed at my feet when he asked for money.
"I told him mate I haven't even done the tills yet you'll have to come back this afternoon.
"I knew he didn't know what he was doing . . . I reached out and grabbed the barrel and walked him out of the shop.
Mark said the man was extremely calm and polite and not aggressive in his demands for money.
"I'd say he was homeless. To be honest I felt sorry for him and probably would have given him a loaf of bread if he wasn't holding a gun at me.
He said the man fled empty handed and he chased him down the street in an attempt to take the rifle off him.
"He wouldn't give it up, he was holding on for dear life so I'd say it was a family heirloom or something.
The man disappeared down a bush track running towards the Pacific Hwy, police were told.
"As he ran away I told him the best thing he could do was to turn himself into the police and get some help.
"I could have chased him, but I just wanted to get back to my son who was still inside the store."
The attempted robbery lasted just 40 seconds.
Mark called police who this afternoon continued to comb the town to find the man.
"What I want to make clear is that no one in this position should ever be a hero," Mark said.
"I have been a soldier, I was capable of handling the situation, but if the gun was loaded then I wouldn't have taken that action.
"Here at the supermarket we train our staff to remain calm during an armed robbery, open the till and take a step back, but this was something different.
"The guy was just desperate. If he had of been a hardened criminal I probably would have decked him. He was just homeless I felt sorry for him.
"It's sad when desperate people do desperate things."
Police say they are looking for a man of around 30 years of age of Aboriginal appearance. 155cm tall with black hair and of a medium build.
He was last seen wearing a dark coloured jumper and track suit pants.
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