She looked like a vulnerable pensioner – nothing more than an easy victim for the teenage Gypsy cashpoint gang.
But had the trio known who they were messing with, they might have realised they would pay a high price for snatching money from 77-year-old Winifred Peel.
Felix Stoica, 19, and two accomplices attempted to shove Mrs Peel aside at an ATM and pressed the button for £200 after she put in her bank card.
But the widowed grandmother-of-four grabbed Stoica by the collar and smashed his head against the cash machine several times.
The teenagers obviously did not know Mrs Peel, from Bromborough, on the Wirral, goes to the gym four times a week, using the treadmill and even lifting weights.
The criminals eventually fled with her money, and she went into the local Barclays branch while she waited for police. Yesterday Mrs Peel told the Mail: ‘I bashed him into the wall as hard as I could, three times. He started shouting in Romanian – it was obviously the last thing he expected.
‘I just thought, “You’re not having my money, young man”.
‘It was only afterwards that I realised what I’d done and started shaking – what if he’d had a knife? I might not be here today.’
CCTV of the trio leaving the bank were circulated, and they were arrested a week later in Blackpool. Stoica, along with Piper Dumitru and Florin Geblescu, all Gypsy teenagers living in Manchester, later pleaded guilty to the robbery, which took place in April. They were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday.
Stoica received two years in a young offenders’ institution, Geblescu, 18, was given 18 months, and Dumitru, also 18, received eight months.
Judge Norman Wright said: ‘You targeted a vulnerable victim, a lady who was 77 years of age. Notwithstanding her age, she resisted, there was a struggle before you made good your escape.’ Mrs Peel, whose electrical engineer husband John, died in 1982, added: ‘I’m pleasantly surprised that they were all jailed – I thought they’d get a slap on the wrist.
‘The bank refunded the money straight away and even sent me a bunch of flowers. Next time I go to my gym I know people will have a field day about this – they’ll say, “Don’t you mess with Mrs Peel”.
‘But I’m pleased they’ve been locked up, or otherwise they would be looking for more people to rob who maybe wouldn’t have been able to look after themselves like I was.’
The court heard Stoica had numerous previous convictions for robbery while the other two had no record.