It was the stuff of comic book fantasy. Batman returns to a British city clutching his prey by the scruff of the neck as he delivers him into the hands of a grateful police force telling an astonished desk sergeant: “I’ve caught this one for you” before stalking off into the night.
Yet hopes that the Caped Crusader was once more singlehandedly cleaning up Gotham City – or in this case Bradford city – may not have been quite what they seemed.
A West Yorkshire Police community Facebook site revealed images of someone dressed as the celebrated superhero as he handed over a 27-year-old man wanted in connection with a series of alleged crimes including handling stolen goods, fraud related offences and breaching a court order.
The images prompted an international Twitter storm and global media follow up as the public proved that their love of the moral certainties embodied by the masked vigilante – albeit one who had grown a little paunchy since his last big screen outing - remained undimmed more than 70 years after his DC Comics debut.
TV news crews were soon encamped outside Trafalgar House police station in Bradford where the extraordinary handover occurred in the early hours of the morning on 25 February. One media organisation even sent along their own journalist donning the celebrated grey and black uniform in a bid to enliven proceedings.
Meanwhile reporters were dispatched to the nearby Butterworth estate in a bid to track down the illusive and modest crime fighter.
But police would only confirm that the 27-year-old man was due to appear before Bradford magistrates on Friday following his arrest.
“The person who brought the wanted man into the station was dressed in a full Batman outfit. His identity, however, remains unknown,” a spokesman said.
However it emerged that the 27-year-old was responding to an earlier social media appeal by the Bradford South division of the West Yorkshire Police to give himself up prompting speculation that Batman was rather better known to his “quarry” than some might have hoped.
Bradford South neighbourhood inspector Alan Rhees-Cooper that officers had made diligent inquiries in the local community to locate the 27 year-old man. “This often leads to members of the community assisting the police or to the individual themselves voluntarily attending the police station to speak to the police,” he said.
Officers had been visiting friends and relatives of the man, who was also wanted in connection with an offence in Grimsby, prior to him giving himself up.
Police community support officers gamely conceded the joke was on them.
“Ultimately Batman beat us to the punch...... Until Next time Batman, Until Next time!!!” said one. “No assistance from Robin he was outside keeping the Batmobile running we believe,” said another.
Bradford West Respect MP George Galloway said: “Contrary to rumours sweeping Gotham, I am not the Bradford Batman, However I take my hat off to him and wish him luck in the future.”
The city’s Labour Council Leader David Green warned the public not to take the law into their own hands. “I have yet to see a torched Batman image on the night sky above Bradford,” he said.
”Clearly, whoever this individual is has a good sense of humour and a sense of the surreal. I think it shows the quirkiness that we have all come to love about Bradford,“ he added.
Bishop of Bradford Rt Rev Nick Baines said: ”I just think it's dead funny - and so typical of Bradford. The only thing that concerns me - judging from the waistline and tights - is that he doesn't look that fit.“