A street thief who picked female pensioners as his victims was stopped in his tracks by another woman shopper who saw him fleeing with a handbag.
Have-a-go-heroine Andrea Colwill bravely made a grab for heroin addict Lee Anthony Rees as he tried to escape down city centre Queen Street, Cardiff Crown Court heard.
She was unaware that around the corner in Park Place, he had just left a 64-year-old victim injured after wrestling with her to steal with her property.
“But when she saw a man running with a bag and looking over his shoulder, she assumed rightly it was stolen,” prosecutor David Pugh told a judge.
“She made a grab for him, knocking him over and when he dropped the bag and fled, she picked it up.”
The bag was later safely returned to loser Mary Britton his victim, who had been on her way to a bereavement group meeting when Rees spotted her as she got off a bus in broad daylight a fortnight ago.
Speaking after Rees was jailed by a judge at Cardiff Crown Court, Ms Colwill played down her role in the drama.
She said as soon as she saw the bag-snatcher racing towards her, she stuck her foot out and brought him to the ground.
And she said another shopper helped her stop the thief.
She said: “I’m just glad that he’s got the punishment he deserved.”
The court heard how Rees’ victim’s handbag was inside a supermarket bag-for-life for security – but even that did not stop him.
Mr Pugh said: “He pulled at it and when Mrs Britton the lady held on, put his hand in the carrier bag to reach her handbag.
“He pulled and pulled until it eventually came out and then ran off.
“She was left feeling extremely scared and with pain in her neck, shoulder and arm.”
Just a week and a half before, on May 3, a 74-year-old Lynne Evans woman had been his victim as she shopped at Tesco in Cowbridge Road East.
Her handbag was on the shopping trolley that she was pushing.
“He waited until she was distracted with shopping for just a moment, picked up the handbag, hid it in his own carrier bag and walked out of the store,” Mr Pugh told the court.
“She lost cash and her keys and had to have all the locks changed on her home.”
Rees, 31, of Deere Road, Cardiff, a man with a record of 122 previous offences, half of them thefts, was identified from CCTV coverage in the city centre and in the store.
He pleaded guilty immediately to charges of robbery and theft and was jailed for 20 months.
Tim Hartland, defending, said: “His is an all-too-familiar story, with the vast majority of his offending committed to fund a long standing and significant heroin habit.
“He didn’t offend for 10 months after his last release from prison because he had stopped taking drugs but in March he relapsed when he had domestic issues.”
Jailing him, Judge Christopher Vosper QC told Rees: “Both these victims were elderly and were alone. You say you were affected by drugs at the time but it seems to me they were targeted because they were vulnerable.”