• Local traveler returns with tale of tackling British burglar
    By Amy Ash Nixon
     | June 06,2014

    MORETOWN — While visiting his daughter in England, town resident Tom Gibbs, 63, had a not very touristy encounter: He came upon a man trying to burglarize his daughter’s van.

    Gibbs crept up on the would-be thief, took him by surprise and captured him, helping to turn the man in to local police in the Suffolk Constabulary, which serves the town of Mildenhall.

    Gibbs shared the story Thursday. He was visiting his daughter and her husband, who had been transferred to England from Japan.

    “My daughter and I were returning from an evening out, and we had traded vehicles and left (her husband) with the brand new van, because he had the three kids,” he said.

    “We came into the street where they live, and I noticed someone inside her van. The light was on and the door was open. At first, I thought it was her husband, but then he closed the door and started walking off,” said Gibbs, who took off after the man on foot. “The instant that he looked suspicious, I noticed there was another guy standing on the other side of the hedge with a hoodie on and he had it pulled up, and I thought, I know what’s going on here ... and so I cut the guy off from his retreat in the direction he was going and I confronted him, and he said, ‘I had a few beers, mate, and I got distracted, can you help me?’ and I asked him what he was doing in my daughter’s van and he said he wasn’t in the van.”

    Gibbs said he grabbed the man by the seat of his pants as he was trying to get away, “and we went tumbling into the hedgerow.”

    “He had his back to me, and I didn’t know if he had a knife or what. I could tell he was trying to do something with his hands so I kind of got him in a bear hug, and he was yelling, ‘Why are you assaulting me, mate? I haven’t done anything!’”

    Gibbs said he had a good grip on the man, who was not very large. “I walked him back up to the house. Meanwhile, my daughter got her husband and we got the guy and we called the local police. It was kind of comical at times,” said Gibbs.

    His son-in-law, in England only about a month at the time of the April incident, had said, “I don’t even know how to call the damn police,” said Gibbs. “(The suspect), whose name is Paul, said dial 999, and my son-in-law calls it, and that was all.”

    About five minutes later, the police were there and thanked Gibbs for catching one of two men suspected in a rash of break-ins in the area, Gibbs said. The other guy had taken off, and Gibbs isn’t sure what happened to him.

    A friend, Rhett Williams, learned of the story from Gibbs himself and called The Times Argus.

    Efforts to obtain the police side of things from the Suffolk Constabulary by press time were not successful.

    Gibbs has no special training in defense.

    “I’m just a good old Vermont mountain boy ... redneck, fisherman, hunterman. I live in the woods a mile from any other human being,” he said. “Just another day in the life of a Vermont mountain man.”

    amy.nixon @timesargus.com

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