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Manchester woman who used walker to thwart robber: 'I just started hitting him with it, four or five times'

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 22. 2012 9:31PM

Candace Neal told Manchester police she used her walker to fend off an armed man who burst into her apartment. (MARK HAYWARD/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - Confronted by a knife-wielding robber, a feisty center city resident used the most convenient weapon at hand to protect herself - her walker.

Candace Neal, 50, who is recovering from foot surgery, said she used the legs of the walker to poke and strike the man, who barged into her apartment Sunday afternoon.

'I just started hitting him with it, four or five times. That's all I could do,' Neal said Monday.

Despite Neal's efforts, the intruder got away with her purse, which contained cash and a trove of prescription painkillers that she had filled just days before, Neal said.

Manchester police released information about the robbery Monday and asked for tips from the public to help solve the case.

Neal lives in a first-floor, one-bedroom apartment at the corner of Spruce and Wilson streets. On Sunday afternoon, she let a visitor into her apartment and left the door unlocked, she said.

A man later barged in with a bandana over his face. He said nothing, she said, but obviously wanted her purse. Neal said she kicked the purse under her bed to hide it. The man pushed her friend to the floor. In the commotion, Neal ended up on her back on her bed. When the robber came toward her, she drew up her walker.

'I was almost helpless. If I didn't have the walker, I'd have nothing,' she said. 'I was just trying to defend myself and my stuff.'

Neal said the robber was dressed in multiple layers of clothing, making him seem heftier than he was. And although he had a knife, he did not carry it as if he would use it, Neal said.

According to police, the robber was white, about 6 feet tall and had an athletic build. He wore tan Carhartt pants and a navy blue zip-up hooded sweatshirt; a blue bandana covered his face.

The robbery comes a week after Police Chief David Mara blamed prescription drugs for much of the crime in the city.

Several years ago, prescription drug abuse was not as prevalent, Mara said.

'There's a lot more of it on the street, and people are getting addicted to it,' he said last week.

On Monday afternoon, Neal said she was in pain and could use the Oxycodone that was stolen. She said she could also use some anti-stress medicine that was stolen.

Neal said she initially thought her purse was safe after she kicked it under her bed. But after she reported the intrusion to police, she couldn't find her purse and figured the intruder grabbed it.

As of Monday afternoon, Neal had not been able to contact police to say her purse had been stolen, she said. A police statement released Monday morning reported Neal had been able to stow away the purse.

Neal said the black-leather Guess bag included all her identifications, $200 in cash and a month's worth of Oxycodone, methadone, muscle relaxants and the anti-stress medication. She valued them at $244, and feared that Medicaid could not replace them.

However, a spokesman for the state Health and Human Services Department, Nicola Whitley, said Medicaid can replace prescription medicine that is stolen.

Neal said she became disabled about a year ago because of back problems. The surgery, which took place about two weeks ago, was to address a diabetes-related infection in her right foot.

She said she's worked a variety of jobs, including deli worker, deputy sheriff and a corrections officer, where she said she got in enough scraps to learn how to fight back.

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