A GRAND old lady of 98, soon to be installed as a Freeman of the Borough, was brutally held down by intruders as her home was burgled for the second time in six months.
Alice Horne, of Union Road, Oswaldtwistle, who suffers from polio and arthritis, had her arms held back in her wheelchair as two bogus officials rummaged around her home.
But she emerged defiant from her ordeal to say: "I wasn't frightened of them even though one held my hand so tight that my gold ring cracked and it was torture on my shoulders."
A man and a woman got into her house under false pretences by claiming they were from the water board calling about a burst main.
As the woman wheeled Alice into the kitchen and restrained her, the man went upstairs and searched through the lounge, pulling out drawers and making off with a small amount of cash and a handbag.
Alice, who is due to receive her Freeman award at a civic ceremony next month in recognition of her many years of fund-raising and voluntary work, said: "I lived through the war and the bombings so I won't let this stop me.
"My family are upset and worried but it won't stop me going out selling flags for Arthritis Care next week. Everyone has told me not to let this spoil me getting the award which I'm really excited about."
The robbery, on Saturday afternoon, follows a similar incident five months ago when Alice was distracted by conmen.
In both cases she was able to press her personal alarm, which brought police rushing to the scene and forced the intruders to flee.
She added: "I'm angry about what's happened but anger gives me energy. The police were excellent and I said I'd go to court if needs be.
"My advice to other people is not to shout or get hysterical with thieves because that's when they get aggressive and might become violent."
Alice came to Oswaldtwistle from Scotland 48 years ago and, aside from her relentless charity work, has been actively involved in DASH - the Disabled Association for Sport in Hyndburn - for more than 35 years.
She has taken part in disabled swimming, bowling, javelin and darts, and has met Prince Charles and Princess Anne as well as celebrities such as Patrick Moore.
The crime has shocked the community and police have described it as despicable.
A spokesman said: "Anyone targeting vulnerable people in such a way deserves no protection from anybody and we would urge anyone with information to contact us on 353741 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."
The male intruder is described as white, slim, aged between 20 and 30 with short dark straight hair and was cleanly-shaven. The woman is also white, shorter than the man, with light coloured shoulder-length hair, and was wearing light coloured clothing.
- IN a separate but similar incident three men posing as gas board officials stole hundreds of pounds from a 92-year-old man.
They knocked on the door of his house in Altham at 11am on Tuesday 8 November, saying they needed the man to leave his home because of a nearby gas explosion.
While the man was distracted the cash was stolen from the house.
- CLAIRE Diack, Deputy Chief Officer for Age Concern Hyndburn, said: "These cases are just the tip of the iceberg.The problem is people don't always report them.
"Bogus callers travel around areas where they are not known and target elderly people.
"Money is often tight for elderly people living on their own. They aren't always used to banks and tend to store money in their homes.
"We offer support to people who've been the victim of bogus callers and are traumatised by the experience."
- AGE Concern has issued guidelines about how old folk can guard against distraction burglary which is when an impostor gains entry to a home under false pretences and then steals from it.
LOCK - always keep front and back doors locked at all times even if only popping out briefly.
STOP - when someone knocks at the door, stop and think if you are expecting anyone and check the back door is locked before answering.
CHAIN - always put the chain on before you open the door and keep it on while you talk to the caller.
CHECK - if you don't know the caller ask for their identity card, check it carefully and ask does the person look like the person on the card? Have you received a letter from the company saying they were coming? Always close the door while you make these checks and call the head office of the company they say they are from. Only let callers in if you are absolutely sure they are genuine.
Always remember: IF IN DOUBT KEEP THEM OUT!