LONDON – An American tourist from Louisiana is said to have attacked a hammer-thief who had unsuccessfully attempted to steal the Magna Carta in Salisbury Cathedral  Matt Delcambre Little Iberia, Louisiana, told The Sun newspaper in an interview published on Saturday that he and his wife Alexis were traveling in the southwestern English city when a man tried to smash the glass after a fire alarm was raised in the chapter house of the building. In the midst of confusion, Delcambre picked up the suspect as he fled.
"I just had to stop him," said the 56-year-old in The Sun.
Delcambre, director of the Center for Business & Information Technologies at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, said he was keeping him on the ground until safety could materialize.
"At home he would have been gagged on the ground," his wife Alexis told the Sun.
The document was protected by two layers of thick glass, and the thief gave up and tried to escape.
Wiltshire police said on Saturday that a 45-year-old man was released on bail by 20 November while officials continue their investigation.
The Magna Carta of Salisbury Cathedral is one of four existing copies of the Charter of 1215 that established the principle that the king is subject to the law. It is considered a founding document of English law and civil liberties and influenced the creation of the United States Constitution.
The document, Latin for "Great Charter", was short-lived. Despotic King John, who met angry barons and agreed to a list of fundamental rights, returned almost immediately to his word and asked the pope to lift it, plunging England into civil war. He was reissued after the king's death.
However, its importance should not be underestimated as it has inspired everyone from Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela.
"I could not let him get away." Delcambre said. "The Magna Carta is one of the most important documents in the world."
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