Sweet-toothed charity tin thief caught hiding in woods

A sweet-toothed burglar targeted a garden centre twice and on one occasion helped himself to a slice of cake and a bottle of Fanta, a court heard.

Thursday, 30th May 2019, 11:25 pm
Nicholas McRae

Nicholas McRae, of no fixed address, first struck at Coton Orchard Garden Centre, in Cambridge, in the early hours of April 23.

The 63-year-old smashed a ground floor window using a sledgehammer, which was later recovered at the scene.

He climbed through the window but cut himself in the process and left blood at the scene, Cambridge Crown Court heard.

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Nicholas McRae

McRae approached the Post Office area and tried using the sledgehammer to smash the glass, but was unsuccessful.

Instead, he walked towards the café area and forced open the till. There was no money inside so McRae took a tips jar next to the till, together with £2.50 in change, a bottle of Fanta and a slice of cake.

He then left the scene via the same broken window. He was wearing a high visibility jacket but left this behind at the scene.

McRae also left blood on the sledgehammer and in other areas around the shop floor, the court heard.

The stolen charity tins

Five days later, in the early hours of April 28, police were called to reports of a burglary in progress at the same garden centre.

This time McRae used a metal crowbar, which he later left behind at the scene, to jimmy open the automatic doors.

Once inside, McRae stole two charity boxes from behind the till and a further two charity boxes from an office upstairs. He left the scene via the same automatic doors.

Police arrived on scene and found McRae hiding in the woods adjacent to Madingley Road – a short distance from the garden centre.

The crowbar used by McRae

He was arrested on suspicion of burglary and had a black rucksack with him containing the four stolen charity boxes.

In police interview, McRae immediately admitted both burglaries and told officers he was sleeping rough at the time of the offences.

At a previous hearing McRae pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary and was sentenced at Cambridge Crown Court today (Thursday), where he was handed 32 months in prison.

PC Dan Harper, who investigated, said: “McRae brazenly targeted the garden centre on two occasions, even helping himself to a slice of cake, bottle of fizzy drink and charity boxes.

The sledgehammer used by McRae

“Unfortunately for him he made a series of mistakes which meant we were able to link him forensically to the crimes.

“Tackling burglary is one of our force priorities as the impact can be significant and long-lasting for victims.”

Anyone with information about burglary should call police on 101 or visit www.cambs.police.uk/report.

Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111 or via www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

For online burglary prevention advice visit: www.cambs.police.uk/A-Z/Burglary.