AN off-duty police inspector has relived the moment he foiled a robber who tried to escape through the streets of Worcester.

Inspector Simon Richards was in the city with his wife and 11-year-son when he apprehended Joseph Smith moments after the 26-year-old had prized the bag from Vicky Holden as she returned to her car.

The officer, who works for West Midlands Police, praised his West Mercia colleagues for arriving on the scene so quickly.

However, he feels the 16-month jail term handed to Smith, who had 28 previous convictions, last week was perhaps too lenient.

"Sentencing is obviously a matter for the courts, but I was surprised the sentence wasn't longer," said Insp Richards, who is 39.

The robbery happened last November during the Victorian Christmas Fair.

As reported by your Worcester News last Saturday, Mrs Holden was returning to her car in King Street with her 15-year-old daughter when Smith bumped into her and pulled the handbag away.

"I was walking along Severn Street, by the King's School, when I heard a commotion coming from further up the road, towards town," said Insp Richards.

"I heard someone shouting 'stop that man'.

"From the second shout it was obvious this was not somebody messing about. He was shouting, 'he's just stolen a bag'.

"I then saw someone running towards me before turning into a car park."

He said the assailant tried to scale the car park wall but, having done so, landed on the pavement the other side just in front of where Insp Richards was standing.

"I told him to stand still and I grabbed hold of him and put him against the bonnet of a parked car.

"He started to struggle. I ended up restraining him on the floor.

"If it wasn't for those people chasing after him it would have been difficult to stop him."

By this time a group of between eight and 10 members of the public had gathered at the scene. At least one had called the police.

"Officers were on the scene within just a few minutes; I was quite impressed," he said, adding his 11-year-old son was "excited" by the events he'd just witnessed.

At Worcester Crown Court, Smith, of Field Lane, Worcester apologised for his actions.

The handbag and its contents were later returned intact to Mrs Holden.