An elderly woman who had her purse stolen from under a church pew hopes the experience will act as a warning to others.
The 78-year-old was attending a service at Sacred Heart in Hastings on Sunday when the incident occurred.
"I was asked to take a food basket for St Vincent de Paul up to the altar. I was gone all of about one minute. When I got back to my seat the purse wasn't there; it was awful because it had my house key, my car keys - all of which had to be replaced at great expense."
On Monday, Police searched a Hastings house, where most of the bag's contents were recovered and a female was apprehended in relation to the crime.
Fortunately the victim had only $15 cash, a few $2 coins and credit cards in the bag. The cards were cancelled before they could be used, however buying another bag and wallet was an extra cost that she didn't need: "It all adds up - I got a large proportion of my things back, which was great, but it's a loss of freedom."
The violation of private property had left her feeling frightened in her own home and was a blow considering the work she had done within the community.
"I dedicate a lot of my time to working with others and this feels like a kick in the guts," she said. "The message to everyone is to be aware of their handbags and trolleys at all times - church is the last place you would expect something like this to happen."
Fellow churchgoer Brian Fennessy said it was unsettling to think someone would commit such a crime.
"You would think you're safe amongst a community of church-goers but obviously this [bag snatcher] wasn't a regular."
Senior Sergeant Nigel Formosa reiterated the need for people to keep their possessions close at all times, regardless of the situation.
"It's difficult because it happened in a place where people are meant to feel safe and where they feel that other people will be honest as well, but prevention is important. For women that means holding property close, putting your handbag over one shoulder or maintaining some sort of physical connection."
He said it was the first case he had heard of in which something had been stolen mid-service.
"I have heard of items being stolen from churches in Hawke's Bay but not in those circumstances."