A fugitive being chased by police in southern Italy gave them the slip by running into a church - only to find it occupied by police officers who let him join the service before taking him to jail.

Gilberto Antonio Carnoale, 48, had been wanted for escaping from house arrest.

Police were chasing him but he got away and dashed into a church, where other police were attending mass.

They recognised him and arrested him, news agency Ansa said.

But before taking him to jail, they honoured his request to attend the rest of the mass in the church in the small southern town of Soverato.