A burglar who raided a Carlisle jewellery store in the dead of night just hours after posing as a customer during a daytime recce has been spared immediate prison.
Matthew James Gray, 40, was seen wearing a distinctive crucifix and white trainers while poring over displays during a nine-minute stay at Cathedral Antiques close to the city centre just before lunchtime on July 23 last year.
CCTV captured the premises being targeted at 4am the following morning as Gray returned.
He forced entry with a knife, snatched antique items including rings, brooches and pendants, and caused damage which left the owners facing losses totalling over £15,000.
After staff alerted other jewellers to the incident and haul, Gray was caught bang to rights as he went into a Whitehaven store 33 hours later in a desperate bid to offload his loot.
“He claimed he wanted to pawn items he had inherited from his recently deceased mother,” prosecutor Tim Evans told Carlisle Crown Court today.
Police were called, and Gray was detained after a short foot chase – still in possession of stolen goods.
More than £5,000-worth of jewellery remained missing while a further £1,100 worth was recovered but damaged.
Gray, previously of Keswick and now of Elder Drive, Stainburn, Workington, admitted burglary.
He was said have been offence-free for over a decade before committing the break-in while under pressure to repay a drug debt of around £10,000.
After considering mitigation and hearing Gray was due to start work from the end of this month, Judge Nicholas Barker suspended a six-month jail term for 18 months.
He ordered Gray to complete 180 hours unpaid work and pay the victim £2,400 compensation.
Passing sentence, the judge told him: “This is a significant value burglary. It was planned. You went equipped with a knife.”