Rugby tackling crime stopper jokes theft ‘livened up Horsham’ last Friday afternoon

JPCT 120713 Passers-by foil Horsham watch shop robbery. Peter Downes with daughter Lily-May 2 and Matt Lewis, Photo by Derek Martin

JPCT 120713 Passers-by foil Horsham watch shop robbery. Peter Downes with daughter Lily-May 2 and Matt Lewis, Photo by Derek Martin

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A thief fleeing TH Baker Jewellers in Horsham on Friday was stopped in his tracks by two humble heroes before police arrived at the scene.

The man had taken thousands of pounds of Breitling watches from the shop in West Street.

TH Baker manager Dominic Toomey said the man would have escaped had it not been for Peter Downes rugby tackling him and Matt Lewis helping to restrain him.

Peter, 42, works in Croydon but was on leave on Friday, and was spending the day with his young daughter.

He said: “I took my little girl to Horsham Park to feed the ducks - we walked down West Street and that’s when somebody shouted ‘stop thief’.

“I saw the guy come running out and he had watches. I checked to see where my little girl was and she was on my other side, so I rugby tackled him.

“He happened to run into my path which was unfortunate for him.”

Peter was joined by Matt, who helped wrestle the man to the ground, and then Dominic.

The Holbrook rugby player added: “It livened Horsham up a little bit on a Friday afternoon! I went from feeding the ducks to doing what I did in minutes.

“Some people have been very supportive and very sweet, but I am just Peter and I’ll just carry on as normal. It is quite nice but I don’t worry about it.”

Matt, 46, said: “Peter deserves a public service medal.

“His bravery was commendable - he could have got hurt.

“At one point the thief said ‘it wasn’t me’ - we laughed and said ‘have you not heard of CCTV’?

“It felt good to do it and Peter and I shook hands at the end.”

Early reports suggested the watches were valued at more than £50,000, but Dominic said the figure was lower.

He said: “My thanks go out to the gents that did get involved because it proves there are people that are willing to stand up and be counted in Horsham.”

A Sussex Police spokesman said a man aged 31 and unemployed, of Croydon, appeared in custody at Brighton Magistrates Court on Saturday 13 July charged with theft. He was remanded in custody.