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Burglar was rugby tackled and then sat on by priests

A burglar who was rugby tackled and sat on by three elderly priests in their pyjamas has been sent to prison for two years.

In a scene reminiscent of the hit TV series 'Father Ted', Irish priests Fr Jimmy Shiel (67) and Fr Kieran Magovern (66), and Indian-born Fr Chacko Panathara (61), confronted career criminal Bradley Nelson (28) after he climbed up the drainpipe to their parochial home at St Mary's Church in Bedfordshire, England, in the early hours of October 9.

Fr Shiel, who had played rugby in his youth, tackled the intruder whom the priests had befriended in the past when he sought help for alcohol and drug addictions, Luton Crown Court.

"He entered Jimmy's bedroom and Jimmy woke to see this guy in his room. The burglar ran and Jimmy jumped out of bed and ran after him. As he did, he hammered on Fr Panathara's door," Fr Magovern told the court

"Jimmy played a lot of rugby when he was younger and it was in the corridor that he floored him. It was a rugby tackle and the chap was taken down.


"Jimmy was on top of him and holding him and I got on the floor and had my knee in the chap's back. My arrival meant Chacko could go and get a phone and that's what he did.

"He came back with it and I rang 999 and told the police what was happening."

Fr Shiel maintained a vice-like grip on the burglar, despite having undergone a triple heart bypass operation. He was then joined by Fr Magovern, who had also undergone heart bypass surgery, and Fr Panathara.

The three priests then sat on the burglar until police arrived.

"He was no match for the three of us. The chap was trying to break free and escape but with the three of us on top of him he was going nowhere," Fr Magovern said.

The burglar surrendered to police and was arrested.

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Nelson, of Viceroy Court, High Street South, Dunstable, pleaded guilty to burglary with intent. He had 21 previous convictions for 47 offences.

His defence counsel told the court that his client had no recollection of the incident until he woke up in jail the next day. He said his client had received help from the priests in the past and he felt "a considerable degree of shame for what he did".

Judge Richard Foster sentenced him to two years in prison, noting: "Burglary is a serious matter. You breached the trust that had been given you by these priests."

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