Patient’s praise for ‘brilliant’ Hemel Hempstead surgery team who sprang into action after bag thief struck

Three of the women who chased a bag snatcher out of Fernville Surgery in Hemel Hempstead. From left, Claire Houlihan, Mandy Curtis and Tanya Wildman.
Three of the women who chased a bag snatcher out of Fernville Surgery in Hemel Hempstead. From left, Claire Houlihan, Mandy Curtis and Tanya Wildman.

Meet a brave trio who swooped into crime-fighting action when a woman’s handbag was snatched.

Sue Smith was sitting in the waiting room at Hemel Hempstead’s Fernville doctors surgery with her two young grandchildren when the thief struck.

Tanya Wildman, Mandy Curtis and Claire Houlihan

Tanya Wildman, Mandy Curtis and Claire Houlihan

He grabbed her handbag, hitting her around the head, and made a run for it – but not before one elderly patient whacked the crook with her walking stick.

Close on the robber’s trail were receptionists Mandy Curtis and Tanya Wildman, patient services manager Claire Houlihan and trainee pharmacist Niral Dawad.

Sue, 52, said: “I think they were absolutely brilliant. Everybody was trying to help.

“One woman nearly got him but she just missed him. She was like a whippet, she was so quick.”

Claire said it was natural instinct for the surgery team, based in Midland Road, to spring into action as staff there are always ready to deal with a crisis.

“If anything happens we are always there. If somebody passes out we are there – it is a natural thing for us to do,” she said. “I don’t know why but it just is.”

Quick-thinking staff recognised the crook and his details were passed onto police who later arrested 47-year-old Herve Turuban.

The ordeal has left Sue’s granddaughter, aged four, suffering from sleepless nights and too frightened to return to the town centre surgery. “She has become very withdrawn. She is crying at the simplest things,” said Sue.

Last week magistrates sentenced Turuban to a 12-week jail sentence suspended for 12 months and he was ordered to pay back the £70 that he took from Sue’s handbag.

The sentence handed down was also for stealing goods from The Polski Shop in Marlowes, a mobile phone, a laptop and a book.

Sue said: “I’m very disappointed with the sentence. I feel like he has walked away laughing. For me it was premeditated – he wasn’t a patient at that surgery, he knew what he wanted and he just picked on me.”