A burglar who stole a church collection from a parishioner’s home has been jailed after the victim wrote a moving account of how the break in has affected her.
Serial thief Gavin Richards ransacked the bungalow in a Devon village while church helpers Heather and Lawrence Noad were tending the chapel where they were regular worshippers.
He stole thousands of pounds worth of family heirlooms and cash including the £116 from the previous Sunday’s offertory collection at Plymtree, near Cullompton, which they had not had time to bank.
Richards was jailed after Mrs Noad’s victim impact statement was read to a judge at Exeter Crown Court.
She said: ”When I entered the property I did realise at first what had happened but as I went from room to room it dawned on me and a cold feeling of fear, which I keep reliving, came to me as I imagined what would happen if I came face to face with the intruder.
“Many of the items stolen meant a lot to my husband and myself including a wedding present from my parents in law, who are no longer with us. Even if we could purchase them again they would not be the same.
“I am upset about the money taken from the dining room because it came from the church collection and almost all of those who contributed to it were pensioners.
“I know it is not my fault but I feel so badly about it I feel I have to make reparation. This has also cost us a huge amount of time sorting out everything.
“Nobody has a right to violate our home in this manner and the whole experience has left me shaken and distrustful of strangers.
“We discussed the thefts and thought the burglar may have a wife and family to feed but then we realised he must have a car, which is something many working families cannot afford.
“I now have trouble sleeping and I am constantly checking doors and windows. I think it is important for the law to take into account the effect this has had on us and could have on others in the future if the perpetrator is not stopped.
“It is important to consider the effect on others, particularly if this is a drug related crime.”
Heroin addict Richards, aged 33, of Lower Argyll Road, Exeter, admitted burglary and handling and was jailed for two years.
He has more than 50 previous convictions including seven for burglary. He was not liable for a minimum sentence because some pre-dated the three strikes rule and others were on garages rather than homes.
At the time he broke into the Noad’s bungalow he was in breach of two different suspended sentences and on bail for handling. The raid happened two days after he missed a drug rehabilitation appointment.
Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, told him: ”This burglary was a serious offence aggravated by your long record.”
Mr Gordon Richings, prosecuting, said Richards was on bail for handling a stolen Satnav when he broke into the Goad’s home at Meadow View, Plymtree on a Saturday morning in October.
He said:”Mrs Noad was out tending the chapel and when she returned at 12.30pm she noticed the dining room drawers open and found the house had been ransacked.
“Among the items taken were church funds of £116 which were in a plastic bag in the dining room, an iPod, and commemorative medals, some dating back to the reign of George V.”
He said more than £1,000 cash was taken and a long list of personal property, for which the losers had not provided a total value.
Mr Nick Bradley, defending, said at the time Richards was struggling to cope with his drug addiction but has got clean while on remand and is determined to stay clean when he is released.