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Vicar could receive bravery award

PUBLISHED: 23:48 27 February 2004 | UPDATED: 17:39 24 February 2010

A WELL-KNOWN vicar could receive a bravery award after he chased a thief who snatched a parishioner's handbag during his service.

The Rev Peter Townley, vicar of St Mary Le Tower Church in Tower Street, Ipswich, was conducting a service on December 5 last year when Patrick O'Hara entered the premises and grabbed a parishioner's handbag.

A WELL-KNOWN vicar could receive a bravery award after he chased a thief who snatched a parishioner's handbag during his service.

The Rev Peter Townley, vicar of St Mary Le Tower Church in Tower Street, Ipswich, was conducting a service on December 5 last year when Patrick O'Hara entered the premises and grabbed a parishioner's handbag.

The vicar immediately chased the thief out of the grounds of the church and managed to catch and detain him before the police arrived and arrested O'Hara.

O'Hara, 25, is now serving a 23-month jail sentence for the theft, a separate burglary offence and breaching a drug treatment and testing order after pleading guilty to the offences at Ipswich Crown Court.

A modest Mr Townley said: "I never discuss my pastoral ministry in the town. I was delighted to have been of help in this way and glad that the lady got her handbag back."

The incident happened shortly after noon on December 5 at St Mary Le Tower Church.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said a handbag had been left unattended in the church and a thief picked it up and left the church.

He was chased and detained nearby by the vicar and an unknown member of the public, she added.

Supt Tim Beach, of Suffolk Constabulary, said: "Canon Peter Townley has been helping the local community of Ipswich and this is another example of his commitment and courage.

"We are extremely grateful for the help he provided and now the offender has been sentenced we will be considering some form of community recognition."

O'Hara pleaded guilty to one count of theft and one of burglary of a public house when he appeared in court on February 6 this year.

He was sentenced to three months' for the theft and 15 months for the burglary and eight months for breaching a drug treatment and testing order.

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