Get on your knees: Local vicar won’t be victim

Everyone loves a crime-fighting member of the cloth right? Who doesn’t look back fondly at Tom Bosley as Father Dowling? No, ok, I never watched it either but I’m sure it was amazing.

Move over Bosley (to the extent you can given you died in 2010), there’s a new bad-ass vicar in town. While Father Dowling merely investigated, Father Andrew Cain of West Hampstead gets burglars down on their knees before calling the cops. Less Bosley; more Eastwood.

West Hampstead’s vicar

It all began with a rather blasé tweet Fr. Cain sent to me and @WHLocalPlod on Feb 21st: “we caught a burglar for you today. Red handed in our safe he didn’t stand a chance against assembled clergy.” Cain went on to say that the burglar was “foolish enough to steal from God’s House whilst I was in the Church”. Oh yeah.

In a week when a horse has dominated the news agenda, the press was all over this story like a swarm of, er, biblical swarming things. The Camden New Journal ran it yesterday calling the St Mary’s and St Andrew’s vicar a “brave cleric” and printing a sort of Dempsey & Makepeace photo (google ’em) before describing him as a “fitness fanatic”.

Photo with permission of Camden New Journal

Cain & Cargill in their 80s TV series

The Ham & High hasn’t got its print edition version online yet, but it went with “Brave vicar foils collection thief”, with the excellent subhead of “Cleric orders intruder to kneel on floor after hearing curate’s screams” and mentioning that Fr. Cain works out at the gym several times a week”.

As is often the way with these sort of stories, the bigger papers caught wind of this surefire crowd pleaser. The Telegraph eschewed “brave” and just opted for the factual headline “Vicar made thief kneel until police arrived“, with no mention of his fitness regime at all.

The Evening Standard, meanwhile, gave Fr. Cain an added note of authority in its “Vicar stops thief by ordering him to his knees” but also squeezed in that our hero “works out at the gym several times a week.”

Quite why there’s the obsession with a vicar’s desire to keep fit isn’t entirely clear. Surely it would have been more impressive if it had been some weedy timid vicar standing up to the intruder rather than the gym bunny hunk we all know and love.

What of the unlucky criminal? Will he face the wrath of God? It turns out that 54-year old Eric McDougall is quite the villain of the vestry. He was only out on bail as it was, and after appearing at Highbury magistrates court the next day, he’s gone straight back to prison.

The last word of course should belong to Father Cain, quoted in the CNJ: “he realised there was nothing he could do, so he got on the floor – it was clear that he shouldn’t mess with me.”

  • it's a great story and well worth the telling and retelling – could have sworn St Mary's was in Kilburn though 😉

  • Anonymous

    The incident happened at St James', which is in West Hampstead. (It is in the same parish as St Mary's, and the brave vicar is priest of both churches).

  • St Mary's is definitely in West Hampstead and a stone's throw fromn the tube station.

    I am sure that this was a question of his piety winning the day but this IS the most muscular priest that you have seen since Clint donned a dog-collar.