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Judge praises grandmother who chased intruder for quarter of a mile

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: August 29, 2014

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A judge has praised the courage of a 77-year-old grandmother who chased a burglar a quarter of a mile after finding him in her home.

Pensioner Alma O’Callaghan refused to let intruder Gareth Haynes escape with her purse and ran after him through the streets of Exeter before snatching it back from him.

Haynes had sneaked into her home when she was seeing off guests and she went back in to find the complete stranger in her kitchen.

Despite her ordeal she showed mercy on Haynes who was sent on a drug rehabilitation course after she told the Judge she wanted him to receive help rather than punishment.

Haynes, who was living rough in Exeter, admitted burglary and was jailed for 12 months, suspended for two years, sent on a drug rehabilitation course and ordered to do 100 hours unpaid work by Judge Graham Cottle at Exeter Crown Court.

The judge told him: "The circumstances of this offence are rather unusual. The householder acted in a very courageous way when finding you in her home.

“You had probably seen her leave and this was an opportunistic piece of thieving. She came back and following an exchange you left and she was quite determined you were not going to get away.

“She pursued you and eventually the police were called. Her determination to ensure you did not get away with her personal property resulted in you being apprehended.”

Miss Janice Eagles, prosecuting, said Mrs O’Callaghan left her door open for a few moments while seeing off guests and moving her car and when she returned she found Haynes in her kitchen.

She asked him what he was doing and he said he got lost on his way back from the pub and did not know the way out. He left and within moments she saw her purse was missing and gave chase.

She pursued him from the house in Mincinglake Road and caught up with him but he ran off again and thought he had given her the slip.

She followed him and found him sitting under a tree in Prince Charles Road, where she demanded the return of her purse and a passer-by called the police.

Miss Eagles said the purse contained £60 cash but Mrs O’Callaghan was particularly keen to get her bank and credit cards back to save herself the hassle of cancelling them.

She read a victim impact statement which said the burglary had been a shock and she had gone after the intruder without thinking but his behaviour had not made her afraid he would be violent.

The victim wrote: "I hope he will get the help he needs to overcome the issues in his life so he does not do this to anyone else.”

Mr Nick Bradley, defending, said Haynes has started to turn his life around since his arrest. He has been given a home by a friend in exchange for doing odd jobs and he is addressing his drug problems.

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