Dirty Harry style supercop David Baines has been hailed a hero after he foiled a $1m jewellery heist in the Caribbean - on the day he was awarded the OBE.
The former Lancashire detective, now Police Commissioner for the Cayman Islands, took on an armed gang single-handed as they tried to escape with their haul of gems.
The off-duty 53-year-old from Preston rammed the thieves’ getaway car and then trapped them against a fence until passersby leapt in to lend a hand.
“I did my job - it’s as simple as that,” said the police chief who happened to be parking outside the Diamonds International store waiting for friends when the four masked robbers struck.
“I only did what I would expect any officer of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service to do.”
Four men, aged between 22 and 32, were arrested and the stolen property recovered. A handgun was also retrieved by police.
In addition a fifth man, a 48-year-old passerby, was in custody after it was claimed he entered the store in the aftermath of the robbery and helped himself to some jewellery.
The drama happened in George Town, capital of Grand Cayman, just hours after it was announced Commissioner Baines had been awarded the OBE in the New Year’s Honours List for services to policing in the sun-kissed tax haven over the past four-and-a-half years.
The chief revealed later he had been waiting for friends to disembark at a cruise ship terminal across the road when he spotted the breakfast-time robbery in progress.
“As I arrived, I saw a security guy running out looking concerned, under stress. And as I looked into the shop I could see at least two masked men,” he said.
Spinning his Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV around, he saw three men running from the store, heading into the car-park where they got into a vehicle.
“I rammed the car to try and block them. I was partially successful. They climbed out of the car and started running towards the Legislative Assembly building, so I went after them and hit two of the guys up against the fence.
“The third one somehow slipped beneath my car and was trapped. I am told he’s OK, nothing life-threatening.
“The immediate response from tour bus operators and shopkeepers in the area was fantastic. They came out and I had swarms of people all around me, grabbing two of the guys. The courage of these people should be congratulated and praised.”
It is believed one of the suspected robbers suffered a broken arm as Commissioner Baines stormed into action.
Police said later the raiders had threatened the security guard by putting a gun to his head before smashing open at least 40 display cases and stuffing expensive jewellery into hold-alls.
The fourth man arrested is believed to have been waiting on the car park in a green Honda Civic getaway car. It is expected the men will appear before a court in George Town early next week.
Commissioner Baines was congratulated on his courageous action by local residents and tourists who gave him a round of applause as they gathered outside the store after the raid. A local newspaper also saluted his “derring-do” and called him “the people’s champ.”
The Preston-born cop took up the role of Commissioner in 2009 after a distinguished 31-year police career in the North of England.
He began as a cadet with Lancashire as a 16-year-old and moved into CID six years later. He became a chief inspector, working in Special Branch and in counter-terrorism before joining Greater Manchester Police. He joined Cheshire Constabulary in 2005 as assistant chief constable.
Commissioner Baines had his four-year contract in the Cayman Islands renewed in April last year.