A shopkeeper has been attacked with a knuckle-duster and dragged over a counter after asking a customer to wear a mask in his shop.
Ian Robson was dragged and punched in the head and face with the gnarly weapon as he worked in Gateshead, in Tyne and Wear.
Minutes earlier he had politely reminded a customer who came into the shop without a face-covering that they were now mandatory in shops to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Northumbria Police are still hunting a suspect after a man was seen on CCTV storming into the shop and attacking Ian, reports Chronicle Live.
The attacker’s identity was concealed behind a scarf in footage captured at the shop.
Ian said retail workers face a daily challenge trying to get customers to follow the rules to help keep everyone safe – including themselves.
Ian, 48, said: “I was just doing the right thing and just trying my best to keep everyone safe.
“In the shop we get a lot of elderly people who have just started coming back out after being told they had to isolate.
“I try to look after them, as well as my own family. I just think everyone needs to be understanding.”
Ian was working at the Nisa convenience store on Coatsworth Road in Bensham when the incident happened on the afternoon of September 13.
When four customers entered the shop without wearing face-coverings he
approached them and reminded them of the rules.
But one of the men took exception to Ian’s request.
Ian said: “I had four customers come in and none of them had masks on so I mentioned to them that they had to wear masks.
“Three of them turned round and said that was fine, but one of them said: ‘Well I won’t wear a mask ever’.”
Ian told the man that it was the law and he would not be able to come into the store again if he refused to wear a face-covering, then the men left.
But about 10 minutes later, while Ian was serving an elderly lady at the till, a man burst into the shop and launched a terrifying attack.
With his face hidden behind a patterned scarf, and brandishing a silver knuckle-duster,the thug pulled Ian over the counter by his shirt and punched him twice.
Ian said: “I was serving a customer and he just ran into the store, tried to pull me over the counter and punched me twice in the head.
“He had a knuckle-duster on. All I can remember is that it was silver and it hurt. He hit me twice, once on the head and once on the face.”
After the attack the man fled the shop and disappeared leaving Ian, who lives in Washington, with a black eye and cuts and bruises.
Ian returned to work soon after the incident, but says he now feels nervous in the job he has done for more than a decade.
Ian said: “I was in shock more than anything else.
“I have worked there 11 years and nothing like that has ever happened before. It’s a friendly shop. I know all of the regulars.
“I’m back at work now and I have found it difficult.
“I’m nervous and I’m anxious about who’s going to come through the door. But the amount of support I have had from the community since it happened has been brilliant.”
Ian, who suffers from asthma and anxiety so is exempt from face-covering rules, is now urging everyone to try and show some understanding for retail workers.
But he has admitted that since being attacked he will not confront a customer who refuses to wear a mask again.
Ian said: “It’s not a normal part of the job, it’s very difficult and it’s got worse since they made it mandatory for staff too.
“Most people are fine if you remind them. We sell masks in the shop and some of them will stand at the door and say they haven’t got a mask but will pay for one inside. We don’t have a lot of problems.
“I have stopped challenging a lot of them since.”
The attack was caught on CCTV and police have appealed for anyone who knows who is responsible to get in touch.
PC Martine Coxon, of Northumbria Police, said: “We don’t believe this is an attempted robbery and believe it could be related to an earlier verbal altercation in the shop.
“The victim was working behind the counter but not wearing a mask as
he is exempt due to underlying health conditions.
“Shortly before the assault he had asked a customer to put on a mask but the man challenged the staff member as he was not wearing a mask himself.
“The man left the store as a result of the verbal altercation and a short time later the suspect has entered the shop and assaulted him.
“There could be other motives for this attack, and we are keeping an open mind as to why the victim was targeted.
“However, we are now asking for your help to trace the person responsible for what appears to be an unprovoked attack.
“This type of violence is completely unacceptable and we are determined to identify them and put them before a criminal court.”
The suspect is described as Asian, aged in his 20s or 30s and of slim build.
At the time of the attack he was wearing a grey and black tracksuit, and had a white patterned scarf over his face.