A postmaster was threatened with a hypodermic needle when he tackled a man who had tried to break into his house.

The would-be thief, who claimed he had AIDS, attempted to slash Andrew Molloy a number of times as they struggled in the street.

The drama unfolded at about 4.45pm yesterday at Rillington Post Office, near Malton.

A man in his 20s entered the shop and made a couple of purchases before wandering round the shop.

While postmaster Mr Molloy served another customer, the man disappeared.

"I looked around the shop for him, but couldn't see him, then I heard this crash from our house," said Mr Molloy, 42, who is a father of three.

The man had kicked in a door of the house next door in an attempt to burgle it, police believe.

He saw Mr Molloy opening the back door of the post office and made off down an alleyway.

"I came out through the front of the shop looking for him and grabbed him in the street outside," said Mr Molloy.

"I had a tussle with him - I got hold of him and wouldn't let him go. Then he produced a hypodermic syringe and threatened me with it. When he said he had Aids I let him go - I didn't think it was worth it."

The man is described as in his 20s, 5ft 9in to 5ft 10in tall, of slim build with round glasses and carrying a rucksack. He was wearing a light-coloured sweatshirt.

A car in which he was seen leaving the scene, a dark grey Vauxhall Belmont, which is not believed to be stolen, was later found abandoned in Scarborough.

Updated: 10:48 Thursday, May 31, 2001