Catch A Thief: Sam McAlister tracked down the thief who snatched her bag
A mother who had her bag snatched was told by police it was not a crime – because she chased after the thief and won her property back.
Sam McAlister was queueing in a coffee shop with her ten-month-old son when a woman grabbed the bag from the back of the pushchair as an accomplice distracted her.
Miss McAlister, 34, left her child with staff at the Starbucks cafe, whom she knew well, and set off in pursuit of the woman.
She confronted the thief in a nearby shop and was eventually reunited with her bag after a struggle.
But when she went to a police station to report the crime, she was told by an officer behind the desk that it was not a crime because she had got the bag back.
It was only when the former criminal barrister used her knowledge of the law that the case was passed on to a senior officer who decided to investigate.
Miss McAlister, now a radio producer, said: "The woman was dressed in a way that made her very easy to spot.
"I spotted her about four shops away with a backpack, and I thought 'I'm not having this'.
"She was about 6ft tall, but I thought it was worth a try, so I ran over to her.
"I grabbed her backpack and shouted at her 'You've got my bag'. We were struggling and grappling, I was yelling 'Give me my bag' for dear life."
Eventually, the woman threw Miss McAlister's handbag at her as members of the public became involved.
Miss McAlister added: "I picked up the bag and as soon as I learnt someone had caught her I went back to my son."
A police community-support officer went to the scene at the Hammersmith shopping centre in West London on Thursday afternoon and took Miss McAlister to the local police station.
She said: "The female police officer behind the desk asked me the barest of details and she said that if
I have got the bag back then obviously that's not a crime. I was dumbfounded."
Miss McAlister, who lives nearby, explained that it was indeed a crime and left her details, demanding to speak to a superior officer.
"The woman called me an hour later to say it was a crime but it was an attempted theft," she said. "I knew that wasn't right either. It was theft at the very least."
Miss McAlister eventually received a call from a senior officer who, she said, took her 'very seriously'.
But the incident has left her angry and concerned. "It is only because I know the law that I had the confidence to argue," she said.
"Otherwise handbag thieves would all be coming to Hammersmith because handbag theft is obviously not a crime here."
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the woman officer had initially denied a crime had been committed, but later reflected on the incident and "completed a crime report within an hour of the offence taking place".
He added: "Words of advice will be given to the member of staff involved."
The spokesman said the suspect had managed to get away.