Kind-hearted parishioners have spoken of their sadness at being taken advantage of by a thief condemned as a “degenerate” by police.
The offender snatched a handbag belonging to a volunteer at Atherton Baptist Church as she was helping to prepare for the service on Sunday, November 6.
It was very upsetting. She didn’t have a vast amount of money in it but it has obviously inconvenienced her greatly.Rev Pat Hinchsliff
The young man went into the church and asked for a hot drink as he was cold, but when the volunteer in the kitchen had turned her back snatched up the bag and escaped on his bicycle in the direction of Tyldesley.
The thief got away with around £20 in cash as well as the woman’s car and house keys, bank cards, bus pass and other personal items.
She was left upset by the incident, which happened at around 10am, and the church leaders say they are saddened as they have been similarly duped on previous occasions.
Church secretary Rev Pat Hinchsliff said: “It was very upsetting. She didn’t have a vast amount of money in it but it has obviously inconvenienced her greatly.
“We are a church and if someone comes in and asks for help we will obviously try to do so. Generally we are on our guard because it’s not the first time we’ve had such an incident, although we’ve not had one for quite some time.
“This young man must have been very quicker, clever and well practiced.
“The ladies were just putting the cups out and getting the biscuits ready for after the service and he sat on a stool in the kitchen.
“One of the ladies turned to make him a drink and the victim left the kitchen, I think she had gone to the door.
“The lady turned round with the mug and he had gone, and then the other woman came in and said her handbag was missing.”
Rev Hinchsliff said she did not get a full description of the offender but he was a young male riding a grey bicycle.
The incident prompted an unusually strongly-worded outburst from Greater Manchester Police, who condemned the thief’s action on the Wigan East division Facebook page.
The post read: “Some folk are criminals with no chance of redemption. After being given a warm drink by staff at Atherton Baptist Church one degenerate made off with a handbag.”
The offender’s actions also sparked outrage among residents on social media.
Terri Joynt wrote on Facebook: “Lower than a snakes belly some folk, unbelievable!”
Dan Francis posted: “The rotten swine. Goes somewhere seeking help and then robs a lady. Some people have no shame. Makes me sick.”
Anyone with information about the incident should ring police on 101 or call independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.