When a young man walked into Kathryn Sutcliffe's novelty store in downtown Bradford, England, a couple of weeks ago and asked for an original Batman costume, Ms. Sutcliffe was a little surprised.
"It's pretty rare that we sell these traditional outfits, it's usually the Dark Knight one that they want," she recalled Monday from the store, called The Joke Shop. "We only maybe sell a couple a year."
The man was insistent. He wanted to dress as the 1960s version of the Caped Crusader, with the black-and-yellow Batman crest and tight-fitting, pale-blue suit. After Ms. Sutcliffe handed him the outfit, he put it up to his body to check the size and declared: "Oh yes, that will be great." Then he put down his Visa card, paid the £42.99 price (about $66), and left.
About a week later, a man appeared at the Bradford police station dressed in an original Batman costume and dragging along a suspected robber. "I've caught this one for you," he told the duty officer and vanished. Police detained the suspect, who was wanted for burglary, fraud and breach of a court order. He was also wanted for a crime in Grimsby, in Lincolnshire along England's east coast.
The appearance of Batman in this industrial city in northern England, best-known for being near the home of the Bronte sisters, has caused quite a stir, especially since Bradford has one of the highest burglary rates in the country. Ms. Sutcliffe's phone rang all day with calls from media around the world and some locals have launched a Facebook page in honour of the city's new crime fighter, dubbing him "Bradman." West Yorkshire police have joined in the banter as well with one officer commenting on the department's Facebook page that the force had been looking for the suspect but "ultimately Batman beat us to the punch. … Until next time Batman. Until next time!!!" Another added: "No assistance from Robin. He was outside keeping the Batmobile running, we believe."
Bradford isn't the only city to have seen Batman's handiwork. Last month, two men in Manchester dressed as Batman and Buzz Lightyear helped break up a fight at a local pub. And, last year, a man in Michigan dressed as Batman got into trouble for interfering with police as they searched for a driver who fled the scene of an accident.
Police in Bradford want to talk to their Batman and officers have released CCTV footage of him handing over the suspect to help persuade him to come forward. The force had been looking for the alleged robber but his description and details had not been released publicly. "The Batman outfit was a normal fancy dress costume and whoever had decided to put it on knew the suspect was wanted by police," a spokesman said in a statement.
"I had a good laugh when somebody told me," said Mark Bownass, an inspector with the police force. "It's straight out of Only Fools and Horses," he added referring to a popular old British television comedy show in which the characters once dressed as Batman and Robin for a party and ended up saving a local councillor from being mugged.
Ms. Sutcliffe is convinced it's the same Batman who bought the costume in her shop. "It's the same outfit, without a doubt," she said, adding that the man in the police video looked exactly like the young "big guy" she served and had a local accent.
Given Bradford's high burglary rate, Ms. Sutcliffe said she's is happy to have Batman in town. "We need more crusaders on the streets of Bradford, definitely," she said. "I want to see Robin now because we need them to go around in twos for our crime fighters."
And just in case anyone is interested, she just happens to have a Robin outfit at her store. "Yes. I'm waiting for someone to come in tomorrow for that Robin suit."
The price? "Same as Batman. £42.99."