The prompt action of Wiltshire's chief constable, Pat Geenty, in chasing a shoplifter up Chippenham High Street yesterday morning has had an enthusiastic response.

The Gazette understands the chief constable, 57, chased a man in his 20s suspected of stealing goods from Boots up the High Street towards The Bear Hotel.

The man outran the chief constable, but abandoned the goods he was carrying.

Afterwards Mr Geenty shared his experience with members of the public and police officers on Twitter, gaining over 30 re-tweets and some amused responses.

He tweeted: “Just chased a shoplifter up Chippenham high street (off duty). Goods recovered, crime recorded but he outpaced me, must be getting slow!!!”

Teased by Insp Brian Clifford that he would probably have been a bit faster if the thief had been carrying a rugby ball, he admitted: “I think it was the 30 year age gap, still he will come again.”

PC Si Lardner, response team police officer in Brighton and Hove, said: “As a PC we love the occasions when a high ranking officer (especially the chief) gets stuck in on the ground. Great tweet sir.”

And Clive Barker, chief finance officer for Wiltshire Police, also tweeted to say “excellent #dedicatedtothecause.”

Mr Geenty said he couldn’t comment on the incident as it is an ongoing investigation but said: “If someone commits a crime in front of you it is always a citizen’s duty to step in and help.”

He has also been praised by Chippenham’s mayor John Scragg, who said the incident might have been picked up on CCTV cameras.

Coun Scragg said: “Good for him. All policemen have the same duty in that respect and I’m not sure policemen are ever entirely off duty.

“If a member of the public saw that happen they might be wary of getting into a violent situation.

“I do get involved in things, so certainly if I saw someone in trouble I would get involved I think, being a civic leader.

“There’s quite a lot of CCTV that might pick him up.”