Man pleads guilty in Stevenage cemetery theft case

A MAN broke into a car parked at a cemetery, stealing a woman’s handbag from it while she grieved at a loved one’s grave, a court heard.

Phillip Connor, 30, of Symonds Green Road, Stevenage, smashed the window of the car, which was parked at Weston Road cemetery, and took �200 from the bag, Stevenage Magistrates’ Court was told today (Friday).

He pleaded guilty to theft from a motor vehicle, as well as a separate offence of driving a motor vehicle taken without the owner’s consent. He also asked magistrates to take into account a further eight offences.

Magistrates were told how Connor had gone on a 10-day crime spree last month, stealing items from vehicles to fund an alcohol and drug habit.

Lorraine Telford, prosecuting, said Connor’s involvement came to light when he was stopped by police, after they saw him with a vehicle which had been reported stolen.

Officers had recognised him from the CCTV footage obtained after the cemetery theft, she added.

Connor told police he was involved in the cemetery theft as well as the taking of the stolen car, and later admitted to police he had committed eight further offences, which included a theft from a car parked at King George V playing fields.

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“Police received a report that someone had their window smashed in the car park of Weston Road cemetery. The owner had parked there while she went and paid her respects,” said Ms Telford.

“When she returned, she found the front driver seat window had been smashed and items, including her handbag, had been taken.”

Ms Telford then told magistrates that just over a week later, Connor took a car from Stevenage Old Town. It was the vehicle that police later saw him with.

“The owner of the vehicle was glad to have that back,” added Ms Telford. “He works as a delivery driver and used it for work purposes. He has a pregnant wife at home. He would have lost his job if he hadn’t had the car recovered relatively quickly.”

The court also heard that Connor had a number of previous convictions, and had served time in prison.

But Iqbal Tariq, defending, said that Connor hadn’t committed any offences for several years, and had resorted back to crime after losing custody of his two children.

“Unfortunately, about two years ago, he and his partner split, and the children went with the mother,” he said. “The children did come back to live with Mr Connor. For several months, he was their full time guardian. In September, his grandmother died, then social services turned round and said the children would go back with the mother.

“These were two incidents that had a major devastating effect on him. He admits that his life was spriralling downwards.”

Magistrate Colin Straker told Connor that, had he not pleaded guilty, he would have been jailed.

He sentenced him to two concurrent four month jail terms, suspended for 12 months, and a 12 month supervision order. Connor was also ordered to pay �85 costs and �600 compensation.