Grant Gillard stood alone in his pharmacy. A hole had been smashed in the back door, the alarm keypad had been ripped off and the power was out. Goods and rubbish were strewn everywhere.
But there was no sign of the intruder, so he'd sent the security guard home.
The 68-year-old was trying to reboot the computer when he realised he hadn't checked the storage room.
"I took a few steps and at first nothing appeared to be amiss," he told the Herald yesterday in an exclusive account of last Tuesday's fatal struggle at his Mt Albert pharmacy.
Then he saw career criminal Bruce Allan Jones, hooded and dressed in black, hiding in a tiny space behind some shelves.
"I said 'Look the game's up just relax', but he wasn't inclined to relax and there was a violent struggle," Mr Gillard said.
The pair wrestled, the pharmacist swearing at first, his opponent saying nothing.
"He didn't say a single word the whole time."
They were locked in a bear-hug when both saw a spanner on the floor.
When the burglar managed to grab it, Mr Gillard thought he was done for.
"I knew the police weren't coming, I knew the guard had gone ... I really thought I was in serious trouble," he said. "I thought he only has to clock me once and it will all be over ... Your life really does flash before your eyes in that situation."
Jones was swinging wildly, but didn't land any hits. Then Mr Gillard managed to get him in a headlock.
"I had him like this," he said, demonstrating with adult son Matthew Gillard at home in Remuera yesterday. "Under my arm ..."
Mr Gillard told Jones to drop the spanner and he did.
"I put a fair bit of pressure on his neck so he would have been very uncomfortable," he said.
He dragged Jones with him as he went to the phone to call wife Vera at home - the only number he could remember - pleading for her to call police.
"I got this phone call, and I will hear it until the day I die, saying 'Get the police, get the police' and then the phone went down," Mrs Gillard said yesterday.
Minutes later he phoned again because no one had come.
"It was 'Ring the security company, the police haven't got here."
All the while Jones was silent, locked under Mr Gillard's armpit.
"You would think if he was having trouble breathing he would be making noises," Mr Gillard said.
When police arrived six or seven minutes later, Mr Gillard said "Get cuffs on him".
"Then I released him and he just collapsed on the carpet. He was looking very pale and not breathing, so they commenced CPR on him."
But Jones could not be revived.
As Vera and Matthew Gillard drove in from Remuera they feared the worst.
"We didn't know if he was alive or dead," said Matthew Gillard, who has extended his visit from Japan because of the attack.
"You should have seen the colour of him, he was grey," said Mrs Gillard.
As radio stations reported the death of a middle-aged man at the pharmacy that morning, relatives phoned to check it wasn't Mr Gillard.
Police are waiting on the results of a toxicology report to determine how Jones died after a post mortem examination was inconclusive.
Resting at home on doctor's orders - despite manning the pharmacy counter for the re-opening on Saturday - Mr Gillard sat behind a table full of flowers and cards yesterday.
The family has been overwhelmed by support from friends, family and strangers.
After more than a dozen break-ins, Mr Gillard said he would defend himself again.
"Definitely. I'm not concerned about it," he said. "I've given police a factual account of what's happened ... I didn't set out to have this result and it was in self defence and you've got to look after your own interests in that situation."
Mrs Gillard was relieved her husband was okay, but said "there are no winners in this".
"It's not like he [Jones] has gone in there to murder anyone. It's a burglary gone wrong and that's the sad thing about it all," she said.
The couple, who bought the pharmacy in 1969, had no thought of shutting up shop.
Said Mrs Gillard: "We can't let somebody like this change our entire lives. We have been working for 41 years, it's a long time."By Rachel Tiffen Email Rachel