A WOMAN fought back and bit the the robber who was trying to grab her handbag.

Bolton Crown Court heard how brave Deborah Cox clung onto her bag during a 10 minute struggle with one-legged Craig Gibbons.

The 39-year-old robber was jailed for two years after pleading guilty to attempted robbery and possessing a cosh and knife.

Judge Timothy Stead told him: “She was very brave and fought back. Whether she would have been quite as brave if she had known you were carrying weapons, I don’t know.”

Justin Hayhoe, prosecuting, told how 58-year-old Mrs Cox had gone to get cash from the ATM at Barclays Bank, in Market Street, Farnworth, at around 8pm on April 10.

But as she walked past an alleyway near the Market Inn pub Gibbons jumped out and grabbed her bag.

“He was pulling her bag really hard and she was hanging onto it for dear life,” said Mr Hayhoe.

During the struggle he pushed her and she fell to the floor, injuring her back, but still clung to her possessions.

Mr Hayhoe added: “She felt helpless so she bit him in an attempt to make him go away.”

Passers by shouted at him and he fled, with the pub bar manager giving chase and finding Gibbons hiding behind a bin. Gibbons told him: “I don’t know why I did it. I’m sorry, I was desperate.”

The court heard how Gibbons, of Lobelia Avenue, Farnworth, had been carrying a home made cosh and a knife, but produced neither against his victim.

He told police he had been carrying the cosh for protection and did not realise he had a knife on him. The court heard that Gibbons’ only previous conviction was when he was aged 14.

Colin Buckle, defending, told how Gibbons’ difficulties began in 2001 when his leg was crushed by a girder at work and he eventually had it amputated.

“That marked the beginning of a descent into prescription drug use, controlled drug use, depression and an unravelling of the life that he knew,” said Mr Buckle, who added that the defendant developed drug debts.

Judge Stead told Gibbons: “This was a concerted attack on a woman who was by herself, in a street, at 8pm at night. She had just been to the cash machine and, no doubt, you were aware of that.”

He told Gibbons he was sympathetic about his personal circumstances but only an immediate custodial sentence could be justified. He said: “The general public would not expect an individual to retain his liberty in these circumstances.

“Public opinion does not, by itself, pass sentences, but I think it is a strong factor in this case which is justifiable and therefore, notwithstanding your difficulties, the sentence will be served.”