Violent handbag thief pleads guilty to assaulting brave men who caught him

Amber is restrained by police after the two brave passers by grabbed hold of the runaway thief. Pict

Amber is restrained by police after the two brave passers by grabbed hold of the runaway thief. Picture: Bruce Paley - Credit: Archant

A drug addict who stole an elderly woman’s handbag as she parked her car in Hampstead has pleaded guilty to assaulting the brave men who chased him down.

Joseph Amber, 30, threatened to stab two men who gave chase after he stole elderly Anbar Iiuani’s handbag in Church Row in June.

Despite threats, the two men eventually grabbed hold of Amber, restraining him until police arrived, but not before Amber hit one of the men in the face with his belt and spat at the other.

The court heard how Amber had taken to stealing in order to fund a drug habit, brought on by the death of his seven-year-old daughter from cancer last year and his own cancer diagnosis.

He pleaded guilty to assaulting the two heroes as his trial was due to begin at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court last Thursday.


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Chief magistrate Melvin Marks praised the two men for their “immense bravery”.

“We often hear nowadays of people not getting involved because they are scared for their own safety,” he said.

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“What you did showed immense bravery and I would like to thank you on behalf of the court and the public for doing what you did.”

Elderly Ms Iiuani had been parking her car in Church Row on June 10 when she suddenly noticed her front passenger door was open and her handbag gone.

Seeing Amber flee the scene with her bag, she shouted in panic: “My handbag! My handbag! Thief!”.

Luckily, the two men heard the shouts and quickly chased him.

Amber dropped the bag, containing £300 worth of items, before running on foot down Perrin’s Lane and onto Hampstead High Street.

The court heard how, during the chase, Amber took off his belt and swung it at one of the men, hitting him in the face and causing him significant bruising.

He also spat in the other man’s face. But despite the assaults, the two men were able to grab hold of Amber and restrain him until police arrived at the scene.

As they held him down, a shocked onlooker called out: “How could you steal from an elderly woman? That is disgusting”.

Amber, of Brondesbury Park, Brent, replied: “I’ve got to feed my kids, what else am I supposed to do? I’ve got to look after them.”

But defence lawyer Edgar Fernando revealed that Amber had fallen back into cocaine addiction following the death of his seven-year-old daughter from cancer last year and being diagnosed with cancer himself.

Amber had a string of previous convictions for stealing from cars to fund his drug habit.

He will be sentenced at crown court in October.

Ms Iiuani’s handbag was safely recovered and returned to her.

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