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1st Jul, 2022

Two found guilty of charity box burglary in Stratford

TWO men smashed their way into a Stratford store’s petrol station in the middle of the night and ripped two charity boxes from the counter before making off on foot.

Ronhan McErlean and Christopher Duddle were tracked with the help of CCTV cameras, and when they were caught nearby they had just over £40 in cash from the two collection boxes.

But although they both had long records of offending, they suffered different fates when they appeared at Warwick Crown Court after pleading guilty to the burglary.

McErlean, 39, of Vincent Street, Coventry, was jailed for four months after the judge heard he was in breach of a community order imposed in July for theft.

But Duddle, 42, of Northumberland Road, Coventry, who had been out of trouble since November 2018, had his four-month term suspended for 12 months.

Recorder William Davis, who said there was ‘a realistic prospect of rehabilitation,’ ordered him to take part in a Thinking Skills programme and imposed an overnight curfew for six months.

Prosecutor David Jackson said that at 3am on October 7, the duty manager at Tesco in Birmingham Road, Stratford, had a call to say the alarm had gone off at the store’s petrol station.

When he arrived, two police officers were already at the scene after receiving a report of two men who had been seen kicking in the glass door.

A CCTV camera was checked, and showed McErlean looking through the glass door that morning and then repeatedly kicking the bottom panel until it shattered.

He crawled inside, and Duddle then picked up a fire extinguisher and threw it through the broken panel before he also crawled in.

They went to the counter where they each grabbed a charity collection box and pulled them from their chains before climbing back out.

The pair were tracked by CCTV cameras as they made their way past the Lidl store and down the side of the Premier Inn towards the canal towpath.

Officers went there and found them. Duddle had a quantity of cash on him, and as McErlean struggled with the officers, more cash fell out of his pocket, said Mr Jackson, who added a total of £41.65 was recovered from the two men.

The court heard that Duddle had 58 previous convictions for 147 offences, the majority of which were for theft, but his last conviction had been for theft from a car in 2018.

McErlean had 47 convictions for 110 offences, which included thefts and 19 non-dwelling burglaries – and in December last year he had been jailed for 28 weeks for thefts, and at the time was subject to a community order imposed in July for theft.

Barristers for both men asked for them to be given suspended prison sentences, and Jonathan Veasey-Pugh, for Duddle, stressed the time he had been out of trouble before the offence.

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