Reservist retrieves poppy collection tin from thief on Remembrance Sunday

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Pte Joe Lionetti
Joe Lionetti, back at La Piazza after he'd retrieved the charity tins from the thief

An army reservist, waiting to take part in an online Remembrance Day parade on Sunday, gave chase to a thief who had stolen two charity tins from a nearby shop.

The poppy appeal and cancer charity collection tins were swiped from the counter of the Tesco Express on Bedford High Street.

Alerted by a customer as the robber ran towards Castle Lane, Joe Lioinetti, 27, who works with his father Libby at La Piazza in St Paul’s Square, vaulted the railings onto the High Street and pursued the man towards the river.

“A customer shouted out that someone had just nicked the charity tins from Tesco,” Joe told the Bedford Independent.

“I’ve seen him running off down Castle Lane, so my dad and I chased after him. I jumped over the fence; my dad had to walk round.”

The thief headed past FatCap Smokehouse with Joe giving chase. “He saw me, but I tried to look casual so I wouldn’t startle him.

“I caught up with him on Castle Mound and took the charity tins off him, reminding him that it was Remembrance Sunday. He made off before the police arrived.

The whole incident took under 10 minutes, meaning Joe was back at La Piazza in time to take part in his regiment’s virtual Remembrance Day parade on Zoom.

Pte Lionetti at the 2109 Remembrance Parade at Bedford War Memorial

Private Lionetti is an army reservist in 158 Regiment and when he’s not volunteering, he works full time at his family’s popular town centre cafe.

“I’ve been a reservist for six years and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Joe.

“My dad’s a special constable and seeing him volunteering in his spare time inspired me. I’ve travelled all over the world and this year I was deployed to Leicester and Nottingham to help with their lockdown measures.

“Our regiment even had a Zoom call with the Prime Minister about our work in Leicester.”

Joe has worked at La Piazza for the last 10 years and the aim is for him to take over when Libby retires.

“It’s such a great location and focal point for people in the town centre,” said Joe. “I just want to carry on the legacy that my dad has built up.”

He also thanked Gary Barrell and the town centre CCTV team for their help.

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