Cross-country chaser catches suspect thief

A HAMPSTEAD trader who spotted a suspected shoplifter ended up in a half-hour Keystone Cops-style chase over the Heath to Highgate

Marc Mullen

A HAMPSTEAD trader who spotted a suspected shoplifter ended up in a half-hour Keystone Cops-style chase over the Heath to Highgate.

Claire Paydon, who runs Miriam ladies' clothes store on Heath Street, spotted the suspect passing her shop last Friday.

The have-a-go-heroine ran out and chased the woman onto a 46 bus, pleading with the driver not to leave while she called police.

As passengers looked on blankly, the suspected shoplifter darted from the bus and hot-footed it down Fitzjohn's Avenue.

Ms Paydon said: "As I was chasing her down the road, I asked a man if he could call the police. He did and began running with me as he spoke to the police.

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"Another man joined in the chase and we ended up in South End Green. We could hear sirens, but couldn't see the police.

"Then we ended up on the Heath. It was raining and we were running through mud. It went on for about half an hour."

At one point the woman stopped and lifted her skirt to expose herself.

The pursuers also claim she spat at them, but the intrepid trio just kept giving the police a running commentary.

As they came off the Heath in Highgate four policemen, who had abandoned their car, joined in the chase - approximately a mile and a half from Ms Paydon's shop.

Ms Paydon said: "It must have been ridiculous for passers-by to look at. As soon as the police got near her she just held her hands out and they arrested her.

"It was quite scary. I do martial arts, but she could have been armed. I want to be a PCSO now. I wasn't out of breath, but they were. They said it was the worst thing I could have made them do - run."

The Hampstead Safer Neighbourhoods Team is looking to step up security for shops because of problems with thieves in the area.

Last week Camden Businesses Against Crime presented details of a radio scheme, which it runs in Camden Town, to 16 Hampstead businesses.

The scheme uses two-way radios for police and businesses to communicate, sharing reports of crimes and photos of suspects.

Sergeant Steve Pepper, of the Hampstead Safer Neighbourhoods Team, said: "Shoplifting unfortunately is one of those things that never goes away from Hampstead.

"It was a very good result last Friday as it led to an arrest, but when doing that sort of thing it is people's own personal safety that is paramount.

"They should keep a good distance from the suspect and get us on the phone."

A woman was subsequently charged with shoplifting. She will appear in court on April 9.