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Gloucestershire Business News

Man sentenced for Cheltenham and Dursley crime spree

A 48-year-old Nympsfield man who conducted a six-week mini crime wave in Cheltenham and Dursley - breaking into a funeral directors and a coffee shop as well as stealing a bike - was jailed on November 13 for 28 months.

Prosecutor Naomi Nelson-Cofie told Gloucester Crown Court that the first of the offences committed by Michael McLarnon of Benton Court, Nympsfield, was on July 23, 2023.

"McLarnon entered Costa Coffee in Cheltenham through an insecure fire door at the back of the building during the early hours of a Sunday morning," she said.

"The burglary was discovered by staff as they arrived for their shift and they noticed that several items had been disturbed and cash drawers from the tills had been emptied and the charity box taken.

"CCTV showed that McLarnon entered at 12.40am through a fire door which had not been properly locked. Traces of blood were found at the scene, and this was identified as being McLarnon's.

"The next burglary was five days later at the Alexander Burn funeral director's premises in Cheltenham's High Street on July 28. McLarnon smashed a window to gain entry, but one of the staff who had returned from a callout disturbed him just after 3.10am and called the police, who located him still inside the building.

"McLarnon was found in possession of a bottle of whisky and was carrying a rucksack when he was arrested. He had conducted a messy search of the property and was found with a set of car keys, which belonged to one of the funeral company's vehicles. He also had a spanner and a torch in his waistband. McLarnon caused around £5,000 worth of damage during the break-in.

"The next set of offences occurred on August 4 when McLarnon entered the Tesco Express store in Cheltenham at around 6pm and filled a rucksack with chocolates. He was challenged when he was leaving the store. He left empty handed.

"Less than half an hour later he re-entered the store and made his way to the staff room. He was seen on CCTV carrying a plastic bag and he removed a man bag and other personal belongings and other items from the staff room.

"His image was circulated from the CCTV, and he was identified. However, within a short period of time McLarnon had used a woman's bank card from one of the handbags he had stolen in Bargain Booze and other outlets selling alcohol and cigarettes which amounted to £280 in seven transactions.

"The final set of offences occurred on August 19. The first was an attempted theft of three bicycles, valued at £9,000, when he used a hand axe to try to sever and break the locks and chains which secured the bikes.

"McLarnon was challenged by a passer-by at around 5pm and he stopped using the axe, having broken through one lock and damaged the seat of a bike."

The court was told that McLarnon also admitted a number of other burglaries which he was asking the court to taken into consideration. These included a burglary on June 27 at the Old Bell Hotel in Dursley. He broke in through the fire exit and stole tobacco and cash valued at £550, but the damage he caused in the process has been estimated at £2,300.

McLarnon also stole £95 worth of alcohol from Tesco in Cheltenham on July 4, 2023, and on July 22, he stole perfumes of an unknown value from John Lewis in Cheltenham.

Jason Coulter defending explained that McLarnon has been a drug addict since the age of 13. Drugs had been the bane of his life, the solicitor said.

"He used to live in a bungalow in Dursley, but when he was attacked in his home and had his shoulder broken, he moved out and relocated to Cheltenham area but he had nowhere to live. His mental health took a tumble when his support dog died earlier this year," said Mr Coulter.

"However he began indulging in the drug known as 'Spice' which he had hoped would calm down the pain of his shoulder. But it had a different effect and in his words, 'it did his head in'.

"Almost exclusively his offending was down to his use of Spice and he stole to fund his habit. He describes it now, having become clean of drugs whilst remanded in custody, as an 'utterly miserable existence' and he says he was hugely relieved when he was sent to prison.

"In effect his offending was a cry for help.

"McLarnon has attended a number of addict sessions in prison and he has spent his time being constructive and has landed a responsible job in the kitchens.

"He is suffering from a number of ailments including Crohn's Disease. He believes he is too old for this sort of offending. He expects a custodial sentence and hopes it is not too long so he has a light at the end of the tunnel from which he can rebuild his life."

McLarnon admitted a burglary at Costa Coffee in Cheltenham on July 23, 2023, and a burglary at a funeral director in Cheltenham on July 28; the burglary at a Tesco store on August 4 in Cheltenham and fraud, by false representation on the same date; the attempted theft of three bicycles in Cheltenham on August 19 and going equipped on the same day. The three other offences that he asked to be taken into consideration and for thefts that occurred on June 27, July 4, and July 22.

Judge Rupert Lowe told McLarnon: "You've had a difficult life which has been blighted by drugs. You have 109 previous convictions, of which 65 of them are theft related.

"You've made people's lives a misery, causing them a lot of stress when you burgle the business that they run. Stuff isn't free when you take it off the shelves or break in, it costs the rightful owners money.

"Only an immediate custodial sentence can be justified, and this will be for 28 months."

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