A SHOPLIFTER found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when he tried to make off with a stash of Christmas presents from a cosmetics store.

The hapless thief’s getaway was thwarted when a Good Samaritan, who happens to have run more than 100 marathons, decided to give chase.

Chris Read was carrying a bag of groceries through Barnard Castle when a man rushed past him and up an alleyway, pursued by a woman shouting at him to stop.

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When the woman, Superdrug store manager Suzanne Hurton, said he was trying to make off with stolen goods Mr Read sped after him.

With Mr Read hot on his heels, the culprit only managed to run about half a mile before he surrendered.

The 47-year-old said: “I told him he could let me have the stuff back or I’d call the police and keep running after him.

“He went a reasonable distance but when he stopped and looked back I said ‘we can do this all day’ so he threw the bag at me and I let him go.”

Mr Read is no stranger to running as he has racked up 101 26-mile marathons and recently completed a duathlon- a 112mile cycle ride sandwiched between two full marathons in less than 24 hours.

The married father of two, from Barnard Castle, used to work as a checkout manager for supermarket Waitrose so was trained to deal with shoplifters.

He said: “I’m very aware of safety and would have never have put myself in danger but knew there were few people who could outrun me so would have just kept going until he gave up.”

He now works as a sports coach and raises funds for the children’s charity A Smile for A Child, which he set up five years ago.

Mrs Hurton was thrilled when Mr Read returned unhurt and with the recovered stolen items- fragrance and shaving gift sets worth £235.

She said: “I lost sight of them but heard two men shouting and was concerned something would happen to this nice guy who stepped in to help.

“I hope he knows how much we appreciate what he did, it would have been a significant amount of money to lose from our takings.

“The world should be full of people like him.”

The incident has been reported to the police.