Mum praised for helping catch sword-wielding thief

Exeter Crown Court. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref exe 0613-21-12AW

Exeter Crown Court. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref exe 0613-21-12AW - Credit: Archant

A BRAVE mum has been praised for helping armed police catch a samurai sword-wielding thief who had told terrified onlookers he was going to ‘cut up some pigs’.

Anja Sedgman, 50, was queuing to pay for petrol when she saw Simon Fiddes, with the three-foot-long weapon on his back, steal booze from the Woolbrook Road filling station - and took chase.

A judge at Exeter Crown Court this week commended the carer for her courage in following the offender and keeping officers informed of his movements.

The modest mother-of-two has played down her involvement and told the Herald: “It wasn’t bravery - anyone would have done it.”

The court heard that suicidal Fiddes, 33, hoped he would be shot dead by police marksmen after smashing windows at an ex-girlfriend’s house and fleeing from officers who subesquently came to his address.

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He took wine and beer for ‘one final drink’ from the Londis shop attached to the petrol station and staff did not dare approach him as they had seen the sword on his back.

An armed response unit soon found Fiddes, thanks to the bravery of Anja – who dialled 999 and doggedly pursued him in pouring rain. She was told to turn around by police operators, but declined the advice as Fiddes was near a skate park for children and teens.

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Anja lost track of Fiddes in a nearby playing field – but police swiftly disarmed him in a residential street.

“No-one could believe what they were seeing,” said Anja.

“It wasn’t so much what he took – I wouldn’t chase anybody for a few bottles of wine. He came in with a sword on his back thinking no-one would do anything. I just thought ‘how dare you’ and the best thing to do was chase him.

“I did it for everybody else’s safety. “Luckily enough, they got him straight away.”

Anja, who had left her car on the petrol station forecourt, returned and paid for her fuel before going back to work.

Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, told Fiddes on Wednesday: “The [petrol station] staff did not challenge you because they were frightened by the sword, but one lady customer was made of sterner stuff.

“She called the police and continued to follow you and I would like to commend her for her courage and integrity.”

The court heard Fiddes armed himself with the fearsome-looking weapon after smashing windows at his ex-girlfriend’s house - but was caught when a brave customer followed him from the town’s petrol station where he stole booze.

Fiddes, of Ashley Crescent, was suicidal and hoped he would be shot dead by police marksmen.

He avoided jail and received a suspended sentence when he appeared before Exeter Crown Court on Wednesday.

Janice Eagles, prosecuting, told how police were first alerted when Fiddes smashed windows and a glass door at his ex-girlfriend’s house in Baker Close on the afternoon of November 3.

When officers went to his home, they saw him with the three-foot-long sword - but he fled through a rear window.

Fiddes was next seen in the Londis shop attached to the filling station, in Woolbrook Road, where staff had seen the weapon and so did not approach him as he walked out with two bottles of wine and four cans of lager.

An armed response unit soon found the offender, thanks to the bravery of customer Anja Sedgman - who was commended by the judge for her courage. She left her car on the forecourt, tracked Fiddes and informed police of his movements.

Fiddes was disarmed and arrested by officers in a residential road and told police he wanted to get himself shot or jump off a cliff.

He admitted criminal damage, having a bladed article in a public place and shoplifting and was jailed for 11 months, suspended for two years.

Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, also ordered Fiddes to attend courses to address alcohol abuse and domestic violence as part of two years’ supervision and to receive any mental health care recommended by probation.

The judge referred to members of the public seeing Fiddes with the sword down his back – and asking him what he intended to do with it.

“You replied that you were going to cut up some pigs, presumably meaning you were going to use it in the course of resisting arrest,” said Mr Gilbert.

“You later said you wanted to get yourself shot and said you stole the wine for a final drink before dying, either by being shot or jumping off a cliff.

“You have committed a series of serious offences, including carrying a sword in the back of your trousers around Sidmouth. However, you have spent a month in prison already and I hope that will deter you from future offences.”

A probation pre-sentence report suggested Fiddes needed treatment and could be supervised in the community.

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