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Samson drew his strength from his hair, but Henry seems to have turned into a superhero after having his locks trimmed. Henry Cisneros, the US Housing Secretary, was leaving a Washington barber's shop when he saw two teenagers run off with snatched watches.

Timepieces flew as the secretary gave chase, down two alleys, across two streets and over lawns. A policeman joined the pursuit and grabbed one robber, while the other stopped after being cornered by Mr Cisneros.

"What kind of citizen or government leader would I be if I didn't try to help?" said the secretary, 47, who tries to ``work out and stay in shape''.

Mr Cisneros's exploit was reminiscent of the adventures of Ruud Lubbers, the former Dutch prime minister, who bagged a few car-radio thieves and other petty criminals in the Eighties.