Heroes honoured for helping catch Sunderland robbers

Ian Hardy.
Ian Hardy.
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THREE have-a-go heroes have scooped a national award after they helped to catch thugs behind a string of violent street robberies.

Pensioner Patricia Oliver, Robert Smith, 31, and Ian Hardy, 33, were all rewarded for their brave actions, which helped put two robbers behind bars.

In July, the thugs terrorised the Chester Road area of Sunderland, carrying out a series of robberies on vulnerable women over two weeks.

Mrs Oliver was shopping when she saw a 71-year-old woman being robbed, leaving her with a fractured wrist and foot, and cuts to her head.

The fearless 76-year-old confronted the man and shouted at him in a bid to stop the woman from suffering more harm.

The man fled and Mrs Oliver was able to provide crucial witness evidence to police.

Two days later, an 88-year-old woman was robbed in the same area, and the next day a 27-year-old woman was attacked.

A week later, painter and decorator Robert, of Shiney Row, and Ian, of East Herrington, took a wrong turn in their van when they spotted a man pull up his hood and snatch a 22-year-old student’s bag off her shoulder.

The robber jumped into a waiting car but Ian boxed it in before leaping out and demanding the thugs hand back the bag.

They managed to escape down a back alley, but quick-thinking Robert snapped the villains on his mobile phone while Ian called the police, who caught up with them at the end of the alley.

In October, William Storey, 50, of St Mark’s Crescent, Millfield, and Darren Watts, 43, also of St Mark’s Crescent, admitted robbery at Newcastle Crown Court.

Storey was jailed for six-and-a-half years and Watts was jailed for four years.

At the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Police Bravery Awards in Manchester this week, the heroic trio were commended for their actions.

Robert and Ian received silver medals and Mrs Oliver was awarded a Certificate of Commendation.

“We’re really pleased with the award,” said Robert. “It’s nice to be recognised for something like this.

“I wouldn’t think twice about doing it again. It was definitely worthwhile to stop them.”

Chief Superintendent Kay Blyth, who supported the nominations, said: “Had it not been for their brave actions we would not have caught the offenders so soon, nor had the evidence to link them to the offences.

“All three went far beyond the expectation of any member of public to act or assist the police, putting themselves at great personal risk in the process.”

The ACPO Public Bravery Awards recognise outstanding acts of courage by members of the public for their selfless actions in helping victims of crime.

Recipients of this year’s awards come from 18 force areas across the country.

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