Mary Ballisto, 86, posed for a photo with a Southend News Network Photographer, after finishing her home-grown mushroom risotto.

Local police chiefs and community leaders are set to officially recognise the heroics of Southend pensioner Mary Ballisto, 86, who single-handedly fought off a gang of TEN ARMED ROBBERS that broke into her Victoria Avenue bungalow last weekend.

Mrs Ballisto, a retired soft cheese analyst, was watching TV at 6pm on 22nd November when she said that the gang of bandits burst into her home. She took up the story with a Southend News Network reporter, and said, ‘I was watching TV while enjoying a mushroom risotto using only the vegetables that I grow in my own garden, when all of a sudden I heard my cat flap open and shut repeatedly – my darling Candy passed away in 1985 and so I knew that it couldn’t have been her. Next thing I knew, ten men brandishing baguettes were hovering over me and demanding to know where I kept my teabags, and I remember flying into a rage as I hate it when people smash their way into my home and demand a cup of tea.’

She continued, ‘They were all wearing Donald Duck plastic masks, and from their accents it was obvious that they were from London, or maybe Spain or somewhere like that. Other than my mushroom risotto, the only other thing that I had to hand was a bowl of Quality Street, and luckily I was able to quickly unwrap all of the hard ones and throw them at the robbers. That sent most of them running away for their lives, and I scared the last two off by throwing my grandfather clock across the room. I woke up in my armchair three days later and cleared up all of the mess.’

DCI Bert Poyrot, the detective who is leading the hunt for the robbers, told the Southend News Network that no witness statements have been taken so far as Mrs Ballisto is the only person who saw them. He added, ‘It is despicable that a respected and elderly member of the community can be subjected to this horror while enjoying a mushroom-based dish made from vegetables grown in her own garden. For her bravery in this incident, we have recommended that she should be made a Dame of the British Empire.’