Brave men chase would be handbag thief in Hampstead after hearing pensioner’s screams for help

The suspected bag snatcher is restrained by police. Picture: Bruce Paley

The suspected bag snatcher is restrained by police. Picture: Bruce Paley - Credit: Archant

Two heroes rushed to the help of a screaming pensioner after her handbag was snatched in Hampstead, chasing down the suspected thief.

An opportunist thief snatched the elderly woman’s bag from her car moments after she parked in Church Row, Hampstead, at 4pm on Monday.

She unlocked the car doors just after pulling up and the man opened the passenger door and grabbed the bag before running off.

The woman screamed and several people immediately came to her help and called police.

But two men were already chasing the suspected thief down a narrow lane and they eventually tackled him, bringing him to the ground in Hampstead High Street before forcing him to release the handbag, while other shocked onlookers followed.

The suspect allegedly assaulted the men during the struggle, hitting one in the eye.

But he was held by the two civilians until police arrived.

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Maria Feeney, 55, from West Hampstead, was having lunch in Perrin’s Lane, when she saw a crowd of people run past the window. She said: “One of the men tried to block the thief’s way and forced him to release the bag but he broke free.

“There were about six to eight people who then placed him under citizen’s arrest.

“It was marvellous to see them work.

“People might think twice now about grabbing someone’s handbag in Hampstead these days.”

Neela Malviya, who works at Village News in Heath Street, said: “I was in the shop when I heard it happen outside and shouted ‘Oh my God!’

“For older women, it’s important to be aware and to look around.

“If those two people had not chased the man, he would have got away.”

The elderly woman is safe and well and her handbag was successfully recovered with its contents intact.

A man was arrested at the scene.

On Tuesday Joseph Amber, 30, from Brondesbury Park, was charged with actual bodily harm and assault and pleaded not guilty at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court.

Amber pleaded guilty to theft of a motor vehicle and will be sentenced for that offence after his trial.