A pensioner in England confronted two thieves who were trying to steal his award-winning petunias and chased them off with his garden trowel.

67-year-old Harry Cook confronted the burglars and stopped them from making off with prize plants from his front garden in Loughborough, Leicestershire.

After catching them in their van, he told them to “put the blooming things back” before watching them replace the flowers and leave empty-handed.

They had targeted his front garden, which won a Britain in Bloom competition in three consecutive years, thinking the flowers belong to the council. But the plants, worth hundreds of pounds, were a labour of love by the retired JCB driver.

“I could not believe what I was seeing,” Mr Cook said. “There was one man loading some of my pots into the back of a van, while his mate was sitting in the passenger seat as cool as you like.”

“I walked over and stood in front of the van. I said to him, ‘You’re not having them. You can put the blooming things back’. There was no way I was going to just stand back and let them steal my flowers and ruin all my hard work. I made it clear they were mine and he was not leaving with them.” The thieves attempted the raid just three days before the judges were due to inspect Mr Cook’s work for this year’s East Midlands in Bloom competition.

They were trying to steal a pot of petunias, two leylandii trees, three conifer trees, a pot of pansies and a large tub of violas. “I was furious, I was holding my garden trowel and I think they both knew I wasn’t going to give up my flowers without a hell of a fight,” he added. “It was probably lucky for the van man because my wife Patricia was at Wimbledon watching the tennis but if she had been with me she would have been at my side and they would have had two of us to contend with.”

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