Jul 5 2012 by Hannah Bewley, Harrow Observer
A GOOD Samaritan who was helping out at a charity shop tackled a ‘muscly’ thief in front of shocked customers – with a bear hug.
Farida Belkassemi, 47, was assisting her sister at the Samaritans shop, in Walm Lane, Willesden Green, when she tried to intercept a man who had swiped cash from the till.
Her sister, Fatima Hammoudan, 49, a regular volunteer at the shop, returned from the back of the shop to the dramatic scene on Sunday.
She said: “It was relatively busy but it was mostly women and Farida saw there was a guy who was looking at some young ladies. She thought he was after their bags and she was trying to warn them.
“She walked towards them then turned back round and saw he had opened the till. He was taking the money and she just ran and gave him a big hug. He tried to push her off him but she just held on.”
Mrs Belkassemi is just over 5ft tall and said she was surprised by her own actions.
She said: “He was a big, muscly guy. I couldn’t believe myself, I don’t know what came over me.
“I saw him lean over the counter and thought ‘he can’t get away with that’. I rushed over and gave him a bear hug.”
The thief, who was described as black and over six foot tall, managed to take more than £100 from the till and made a bid for the door, but the have-a-go-hero wouldn’t let him go.
Mrs Belkassemi said: “He started trying to get out the shop and I held on to his leg and didn’t let go. Then I grabbed his jacket and it came off in my hands. He left the shop, but came back for his jacket.”
The sisters believe he had put the stolen cash in his jacket.
Mrs Belkassemi said: “He tried to get his jacket back and I was still on the floor. He started to kick me but at the time I didn’t see any kicking at all and didn’t feel anything. I didn’t know what was happening.”
Mrs Hammoudan shouted for her sister to let him have his jacket and, following a struggle, he picked it up and left. Mrs Belkassemi went to hospital on Monday as she had bruises and swollen fingers, but she did not have any lasting injuries.
The Samaritans shop gave the sisters some flowers for their courageous actions.
No arrests have been made and police continue to make enquiries.