Mrs Edith Robinson, on a visit from London, was enjoying the afternoon sunshine on the balcony at the Riverside Hotel, watching the river go by. As a southerner, where everyone is buttoned up, she longed to try the open friendly, Northern approach to life and, summoning up her courage, got chatting to the young man at the adjoining table. “Have you any plans for today?” she asked, “Yes”, came the reply, “I’m going to kill someone”. Edith didn’t know quite how to take this and looked quizzical. The man, as if to prove the point removed a gun from under his jacket and said ” I’m just waiting for my friend to arrive”. Edith wasn’t quite sure if this was the way small talk normally went went in Kendal, so she quickly finished her drink and went to consult Helen, the hotel Manageress, who was at the bar. Helen had in any case been keeping an eye on the man as he had been in the previous day, when £180 in tips had gone missing and she strongly suspected he was the culprit. She jumped at the chance to call the police.
Now we all know that the police are up to their elbows in paperwork and will normally take 48 hours tom respond to any normal call for help- such as a burglary. Not so here.Within minutes the streets around the Riverside Hotel were sealed off. The police asked Helen to keep an open telephone line and to inform them of the gunman’s movements. A couple who were drinking in the bar moved towards the balcony and Helen stopped them. Then the gunman came back into the bar and asked Helen for another drink. He asked her why she had stopped the couple from coming onto the balcony and she replied, quick as a flash, “Oh, they wanted food and we don’t serve it outside at this time of year”. The hotel was quietly evacuated. The gunman’s friend arrived. Helen served him a drink. He asked why there were so many police around and why the streets around the hotel were closed. Helen replied “There must have been an accident. If you find out, will you let me know?”
A few minutes later 28 armed police had surrounded the building. The gunman and his friend were on the balcony alone. The gunman was challenged. He pulled out his gun at which point the police shot him with a Tazer and he fell to the ground. Both men were removed.
The police were admirable, but the real hero of the day was Helen who showed great courage in remaining cool, calm and collected when face to face with an armed criminal.