A DRUG addict suffering withdrawal symptoms “rugby tackled” a passing 64-year-old woman before prising her handbag from her grasp, a court was told.

Stephen Denis Jayne fled with the bag, but passers-by, alerted by the woman’s screams, gave chase and detained him, until police arrived at the scene to arrest him.

Jayne, who has a record featuring 53 offences, many for theft, dishonesty and some for violence, was today (Thursday March 13) jailed for 16 months at Durham Crown Court.

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The 37-year-old, of Murphy Crescent, Bishop Auckland, previously admitted robbery.

Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, told the court his latest offence took place at 9.10am on January 29, as the victim was making her way home from work as a cleaner at a Bishop Auckland town centre betting shop.

Jayne was walking towards her, along Westgate Road, heading for the probation office, the day after receiving a 12-month community order, imposed by magistrates for handling stolen goods and going equipped for theft.

Mr Dryden said the victim described seeing the approaching Jayne pulling his hood up as far as it would go, covering much of his face with a scarf to improvise a disguise.

"He then dashed towards her and grabbed her round the waist with one hand, taking hold of the handbag with the other, using some force.

"Although she tried to keep hold, she described being effectively rugby tackled.

“At one point she began hitting him on the back and she thought it went on for about 30 seconds, before the bag was seized from her grasp, causing her some pain to her hand and fingers.”

Mr Dryden said as Jayne fled with the bag a man waiting to gain access to his workplace heard the victim’s screams and ran after him.

He managed to catch him and, with the help of another “Good Samaritan”, detained Jayne until police arrived, despite the desperate robber challenging both.

Mr Dryden said the crime left the victim fearing going out alone and, although left “achey all over”, she suffered no serious injury.

Mark Styles, mitigating, said it was, “an impromptu offence” committed “spontaneously” as Jayne was desperate for heroin, while suffering withdrawal symptoms.

Jailing him, Judge Robert Adams told Jayne it was, “a nasty offence” which has had long-term effects on the victim, who has suffered a major loss of confidence going out unaccompanied.

The judge also praised the public-spirited actions of the two men who detained Jayne.