A WESTWARD Ho! Pensioner has been reunited with her stolen purse thanks to a needle in a haystack find at a Barnstaple recycle depot. The discovery of Barbara Thomas' handbag in a 40-tonne stack of old newspapers at North Devon Council's Seven Brethren Di

A WESTWARD Ho! Pensioner has been reunited with her stolen purse thanks to a needle in a haystack find at a Barnstaple recycle depot.The discovery of Barbara Thomas' handbag in a 40-tonne stack of old newspapers at North Devon Council's Seven Brethren Direct Labour Unit has been hailed as a "chance-in-a-million" by site workers.Mrs Thomas said she had never expected to see her bag again after it was stolen as she returned some flower display stands to Holy Trinity Church, Westward Ho! on May 18.But she was astonished to receive a call by DLU staff to say that the missing bag and it's contents had been found amid waste paper destined for a recycling plant in Kent."I didn't think I'd ever see my bag again - I'd given up on it," Mrs Thomas told the Gazette as she visited the DLU to claim her bag - still containing her glasses and purse - on Monday."I couldn't believe it turned up here - I'm absolutely amazed."Martin Coles, head of service at the DLU said he suspected that thieves took what little money there was in the purse and threw the bag into a paper recycle bank, "somewhere in Torridge area"."It was only found when one of the members of staff here noticed a strap hanging down from the bucket of one of the loaders that we realised it was someone's bag," he said."We recycle upwards of £4,000 tonnes of newspapers, magazines and junk mail from paper banks and kerbsides every year and very rarely see things like this as stolen bags are often thrown in litterbins. "But it's nice to have a story like this one with a happy ending," he added.The council's lead member for waste and recycling Cllr Rodney Cann met Mrs Thomas to show her where her bag had been found."It really was a chance find in a million and I'd really like to pay tribute to the way staff dealt with the situation," said Cllr Cann.