A SUSPECTED shoplifter barricaded herself in a church toilet withaman, to hide from police.

Members of mental health group Rethink were shocked when their meeting, in Clarence Road Baptist Church, Southend, was interrupted by the runaway suspect and a man.

It is understood the pair were being chased by security from the nearby Marks and Spencer and some Southend street rangers, after stealing a clothes from the shop, in High Street.

One of the Rethink members was in the toilet, when a man and woman burst in and allegedly started fighting.

Brian Davey, 41, of West Street, Leigh, who was at the Rethink meeting, said: “We could hear screaming and shouting in the toilets and we didn’t have a clue what was going on.

“One of our service users was in the toilet and she just shut herself in a cubicle until it was over.

“There were about 25 people in the meeting and we were all really worried. Then the police came in and made an arrest.”

Essex Police confirmed they were called to the church just before 3pm yesterday, after reports of a disturbance.

A 32-year-old London woman was arrested at the scene on suspicion of common assault and theft. She was taken to Southend police station for questioning.