By David Goodwin and Lorraine Tinney

A BRAVE female police officer tackled a would-be burglar to the ground following a foot pursuit and held on to him until backup arrived as he struggled violently to break free.

Lewis Piggot, 19, was spotted with an accomplice trying to prise open the window of a ground floor flat at 3.45am, but fleet-footed PC Shivaun O'Neill was too fast for him as he bolted from the scene.

The courageous officer has today been praised by force chiefs for her bravery.

PC O'Neill, 29, said: "It was an ongoing housebreaking involving two males and one was at a window trying to prise it open with a hammer.

"We looked around the corner, they ducked and ran away in different directions.

"I chased after one of them, it was about 100 yards.

"I caught him and there was a wee bit of a struggle and managed to get him to the ground."

The officer added: "Catching this guy and getting the case to court is extremely satisfying. It's one of the good days."

Greenock Sheriff Court heard how Piggot and his pal were wearing orange work gloves and hooded tops with the drawstrings pulled so tightly that only their eyes were visible.

Prosecutor David Glancy said: "In benign weather conditions two males in hooded tops with their hoods up were attempting to force open a window.

"One made off, the accused was pursued on foot and caught and tackled.

"A violent struggle ensued as the female officer attempted to hold on to him, and she held on for long enough until a colleague arrived.

"A hammer that was being used to prise open the window was found at the scene.

"The flat was unoccupied and had a 'to let' sign and it looked like it had recently been refurbished."

PC O'Neill — who has spent all of her three years so far in the police service in Inverclyde — said: "My colleague, PC Paul McGhee, came round in the vehicle and helped me to restrain him."

She added that when faced with a live and ongoing crime she goes into 'police mode', stating: "At the back of your mind you are thinking of any eventuality. I knew my colleague wasn't far behind me.

"All your training kicks in and you just want to catch them.

"I love working here. It's busy and varied. There's never a dull moment and I enjoy working with my colleagues."

Piggot committed the offences on the morning of April 23 at the flat on Hay Street.

He had also been accused of trying to break-in to a unit at Lynedoch Industrial Estate, and also stealing a quantity of lead from another premises there on the same day, but his not guilty pleas to these charges were accepted.

Sheriff Derek Hamilton deferred sentence on Piggot, of Maple Road, until September 19 for a background report.

Inverclyde's police commander, Chief Inspector Debbie Reilly, today hailed PC O'Neill's quick actions.

The chief inspector said: "Well done, this is a great bit of work.

"I am really heartened by the work ethic of officers in Inverclyde and quite often this goes unseen, and I am pleased that we are supported by the criminal justice system.

"This level of professionalism happens here every day in Inverclyde."