A pensioner wielding an axe fended off two would-be burglars from his home in Watford after one fell through his garage roof.

John Heathcote, 85, was sitting in the lounge of his Lavinia Avenue home on Thursday afternoon when he heard a “thunderous crash” from outside. 

He went to the front door to investigate and saw a man standing on his garage roof. John shouted at him to get down and upon doing so he heard another clatter coming from inside the garage.

The former professional gardener and lift engineer lifted the garage door and saw standing behind his debris-covered mobility scooter another trespasser.    

Without thinking he picked up an axe from his work bench – an instrument he says looks “formidable” – and pointed it at the men.

“I picked it up and started waving it about. At my age and with the inability to move fast I had to get on top of the situation quickly so I went for this bloke,” he said.

“I wasn’t going to hit him but I was putting the fear of Christ into him. He backed right off and was putting his hands up.”

John, who has arthritis in both knees, turned round to the other man expecting him to come at him but he backed off as well “looking like he didn’t want to know”.

The dust-covered intruder burst past him out of the garage and the two fled.

When asked how he managed to remain calm during such a high-stakes encounter, John said: “You just get on with it. People think you are frail but you have some kind of reserve in you. It wasn’t me that was going to back down.

“I wasn’t scared at the time but I was shaking afterwards. I was in full control of the situation, working it out.

“My daughters can’t believe it. It could have gone the other way but I was reading the burglars' faces and they weren’t up for it. I don’t think they were very tough.”

When asked to offer advice to others who may find themselves in a similar situation, he added: “Be positive – if you back off you’ve lost – but be sensible, read the situation and do yourself justice.”

Hertfordshire Constabulary has been contacted for comment.