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Monday, 22 September 2014

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Heroes catch Cumbrian building society raider

A thief who raided a west Cumbrian building society office was caught by two have-a-go heroes who hauled him back over the counter he had climbed onto.

Gareth Richard Flemming, 29, is today starting a two-and-a-half year prison sentence for his raid atthe Cleator Moor branch of the Cumberland Building Society.

The two men who made a citizens’ arrest on him and held him until the police arrived have each been given a £150 reward for their bravery.

CCTV footage showed Flemming, of Duke Street, Whitehaven, wearing a hooded camouflage jacket and socks over his shoes when he went into the building society on July 13.

In full view of staff and a customer he mounted the counter and then tried to empty the till of the £1,200 in the drawer on the other side. But two men – John Flynn and Ian Cattanach – who were outside in the street heard what was going on, went into the branch and dragged him back over the counter and held him until help arrived.

Flemming pleaded guilty to a charge of burglary, and to carrying a lock-knife on the streets of Cleator Moor in an unrelated matter three weeks earlier.

The court heard that Flemming – described as having “an unfortunate mental history” – had previously been given a conditional discharge for carrying a knife on another occasion. Judge Peter Hughes QC said his “bold as brass” raid on the building society was “just one step away from robbery” – an offence that is only committed when actual physical violence is used.

“Any member of staff could quite easily have confronted you and tried to take you on,” he told him. “If that had happened this could then quite easily have been converted into an actual robbery.”

Passing sentence, the judge said that although there was no suggestion that Flemming was suffering from any treatable psychiatric illness, there was no doubt he had mental problems.

“I urge the medical staff in the prison to which you are to be allocated to pay due regard to your mental illness history and to carry out an assessment and treat you as may be appropriate,” he told him.

Judge Hughes awarded Mr Flynn and Mr Cattanach £150 each for what he described as their “public-spirited actions”.

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