TERRIFIED pensioners were mugged at gunpoint while on holiday in Portugal.

Vincent and Frances McNally, both in their 70s, took the trip to the Algarve to celebrate and relax after Mr McNally beat bowel cancer a few months ago.

The couple, of Old Gates Drive, Blackburn, were attacked by two masked men as they walked to the hotel where their friends were staying in the small village of Alvor about 9pm two weeks ago.

Mrs McNally said a balaclava-clad gunman raced across the deserted main street towards them and grabbed her husband.

She watched Mr McNally wrestle with him, as he tried to keep the handgun pointed away from her. A second man then grabbed Mrs McNally around the neck from behind and took her handbag, which contained cash, her mobile phone and jewellery, before both men ran off.

The couple stopped a passing driver who rang police. They were then seen by a group of local people, who stopped and stayed with them until help arrived.

Mrs McNally said the traumatic ordeal has left her shaking. She said: "Their balaclavas looked terrifying. I watched them run towards us with the gun and I screamed. Vinnie had his back turned and didn't see them until the one with the gun grabbed him. When I was grabbed from behind I didn't know what he would do."

Mr McNally, a retired engineer, said: "It's not what you'd expect to happen there. From what people said afterwards, it was the first time a gun had ever been used against anyone in the town.

"I didn't hear them coming, I just heard my wife screaming. When he grabbed me, I grabbed hold of his arm, and that's when I first saw the gun - I just tried to keep it pointed away from us. Then I saw his partner jump out and grab my wife by the neck before he took her bag."

The couple, who have two children and six grandchildren, said tour operator Thomas Cook sent counsellors to speak to them. They said the police were supp-ortive, but Mr McNally said: "I don't think they will catch them."

The couple returned home with official documentation from Portugal's Policia Judiciaria, and they are now awaiting to hear the outcome of the investigation.

Both Mr and Mrs McNally paid tribute to the friends they were holidaying with, Dave and Marion Holden from Darwen.

Mrs McNally said: "They were so supportive and stayed at the police station with us until 2am. They were really good friends to us and helped us so much."

When Mrs McNally's handbag was taken she lost a necklace and gold earrings shaped like daffodils which had sentimental value: "Vinnie bought the earrings for me as a lovely gesture when we were in Wales, now they're gone."

She added: "He was fantastic throughout the cancer treatment and never complained. We were supposed to be going to Portugal for a rest. I don't know how long it will take to get over it."