Article from "Best" magazine dated 26 November 1996

Pamela Mills

Photograph of Pam Mills with her bravery award from the police

I told the bank robber not to be so silly

She was a middle-aged mum. He was on the run, intent on robbery, but he got more than he bargained for . . .

Pam Mills heaved two Sainsbury's bags full of coins onto the bank counter and smiled at the young cashier. "Well, that's the lot," Pam, 50, told her. "Would you change them to notes, please?"

She glanced at her watch . . . 10.45 am. This was her second trip to the Burton Latimer, Northants, branch of Barclays Bank that morning, emptying all her charity collection boxes. Pam glanced across at a cashier at the next counter along. Strange, she looked a little bit flustered. Pam's gaze then wandered to the man she was serving. He certainly didn't look a nice type, with that untidy white denim baseball cap holding back his hair . . .

The man seemed to be talking. Funny, she could have sworn he said. "Give me the money!" He was holding a carrier bag pointed at the cashier and Pam could see a tiny section of what appeared to be grey tubing sticking out . . .

Suddenly Pam twigged. He was trying to hold up the bank, but what was that pathetic excuse for a weapon? "Don't be silly!" Pam burst out. "That's not a real gun!"

The bank raider stood there, stunned. Uncertain, he began backing away, and as he did, the carrier swung round, pointing straight at her. Pam stared back at what appeared to be the twin barrels of a shotgun.

Again, she stared at his face. When her three sons were little, they were always playing pranks around the house, pretending to shoot her. Something in this man's face reminded me of their naughty expressions . . .

With one darting move, Pam leapt forward and pushed the gun towards the ceiling. She braced herself for the blast but to her amazement, nothing happened.

Dismayed, the bank robber stared at her in disbelief, then turned and walked out.

There was stunned silence then a cashier asked. "Would you like a cup of tea?"

Photograph of the raider, Carl Barnes
Carl Barnes

Pam looked up in shock, then burst into tears. "No, I want my husband Robert!" Pam prepared a description of the man for the police, and Carl Barnes, 23, was captured a couple of days later.

He had been on the run from Wellingborough Jail and pleaded guilty in court to the attempted robbery. His 'weapon' actually turned out to be two pieces of metal tubing tied together.

Pam received a basket of flowers from Barclays Bank and a bravery commendation  from Northamptonshire police. "I've never seen myself as a heroine," she says."I didn't really react as I did out of bravery – just sheer amazement!  

"My sons are all grown up now, but when they heard what happened, they said, “That's typical of you, Mum!”