THREE would-be thieves who tried to break into business premises got the fright of their lives when they were confronted by a samurai sword-wielding, third dan black belt.

They fled from the premises of Cellheath at the Ongar Enterprise Units in Blake Hall Road, Bobbingworth, having smashed a door window to get in.

Little did they know that martial arts expert Lewis Montague, 58, was in his office practising with a wooden, but lifelike, samurai sword.

Mr Montague heard noises and pulled the door blind open as the intruders were trying to get in. He let out a blood-curdling yell, called a kiai, and chased them off the site.

The trio drove off in a blue Ford Escort car towards Toot Hill after the attempted break-in at about 9pm last Wednesday.

Mr Montague was in a full martial arts suit or ghi practising on a punch bag, something he often does to unwind, when he heard a knocking on the glass.

He said: "My girlfriend, Julie, was in the kitchen and I said I think there's somebody outside. The next thing I knew the glass was smashed in.

"I told Julie to ring the police. I pulled up the blind and there were three men standing on the other side with metal implements in their hands and we're facing each other. One of them was just a foot away.

"The shout was instinctive and the look on their faces was unbelievable. I'm not sure if it was surprise, terror or fright."

Mr Montague went to unlock the door, but the thieves did not hang around and ran back towards their car and made a speedy getaway.

Mr Montague added: "I ran after them, I jumped the gate, still with my sword and I was still shouting. I've never seen so much smoke coming from tyres before."

Mr Montague is trained in the art of Kyoku Shin Kai Karate and has been using a samurai sword for three years.

Epping crime reduction officer Tony Ellis said: "It's nice to see the terror of crime put on the burglars rather than the victim for a change.

"We would not encourage people to tackle intruders, but Mr Montague had to take the initiative and he did it very well."

The men were aged in their 20s.

Anyone who saw the car in the area should ring Epping police station on 01992 561212.