RETIRED Rear Admiral Neil Ralph has never been one to back down from a challenge and that was the case when the 83-year-old found an intruder in his Nowra home early Wednesday morning.
The 37-year naval veteran was getting ready to go for his morning walk at about 5.45am when he found a man inside his bedroom.
“Despite being semi dark, I quickly realised what he was,” he said.
“I came back into the room and he was between me, the bed and the window.
“Naturally, my first reaction was ‘what the hell are you doing here?’
“I was completely surprised.”
Admiral Ralph challenged the intruder but also knew he had to “control the situation”.
“He [the intruder] crossed the bed and tried to get past me in the doorway, but I picked up a chair and whacked him,” he said.
Unfortunately, the blow didn’t stop the offender, with the chair breaking.
After a short struggle the man pushed past the admiral, who fell to the floor.
He said the offender closed the door and held it shut, blocking him in the room.
“He then came back into the room and said he wanted my wallet,” he said.
At which point the admiral picked up a piece of the broken chair and again struck the intruder, who also armed himself with a piece of wood and struck the veteran, causing a nasty gash to his forehead, which later required four stitches, grazes and bruising.
The intruder made his way out to the kitchen, attempting to search a number of cupboards, with the admiral in pursuit.
The intruder managed to steal a box file containing instruction books for various appliances in the home and made his way into the dining and lounge room area before attempting to go out through the front door which was deadlocked.
He finally escaped through a front window he had climbed in through.
Although not gaining a good look at the intruder, Admiral Ralph estimated he was in his 20 to 30s, medium height and light build and was wearing a black tracksuit with a hood at the time.
“He moved pretty quickly,” he said.
“He spoke in a very quiet voice and thankfully wasn’t aggressive,” he said.
“It was notable to me that he just defended himself, he didn’t really go after me.
“In hindsight it could have been a lot worse.”
While initially angry at the break-in and invasion of his privacy, the admiral said he felt sympathy for the intruder.
“I can see the other side and it is sad that someone has been forced into or chosen that life,” he said.
It is believed the male ran through the rear of the property before jumping the back fence and into neighbouring homes.
Despite being at the scene quickly, and establishing a perimeter, police were not able to locate the alleged offender.
“The lesson is to stay physically and mentally fit and ensure your security systems are up and running,” Admiral Ralph said.
It has been a tough couple of weeks for Admiral Ralph, whose wife of 57 years, Judy passed away last week.
This incident was one of a number of break-ins reported in the surrounding area on Wednesday, which police are investigating.
The intruder is described as being about 170cm tall, of medium build, and was wearing black tracksuit pants, a black hooded jumper with white internal lining, and was carrying a torch.
Anyone with information, or anyone who witnessed suspicious activity in the area at the time of the incident is urged to contact Nowra Police on 4421 9699 or Crime Stoppers on on 1800 333 000.
Police have reminded residents to ensure all doors and windows are safely secured and if confronted by an unknown person, avoid fighting back and seek assistance when safe to do so.