Opportunist hotel thief stole laptop

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AN ALCOHOLIC stole a laptop from a funeral wake in Eastbourne on September 26, a court heard.

Stephen Burke, of Upperton Road, stuffed the £400 Acer laptop into his trousers and took the loot up to his room in the Cavendish Hotel where he was staying at the time.

Staff at the hotel had finished cleaning the room, which had been vacated by a funeral party, minutes before and the laptop was still there when they left.

An off-duty police officer then spotted 46-year-old Burke, who wasn’t part of the funeral party, going into a function room where mourners had been using the computer and a projector.

The officer followed Burke, who had been drinking heavily in the hotel bar, to his room and confronted him.

He noticed the laptop protruding from Burke’s trousers.

Burke claimed, at the time, that he had bought the laptop from a girl for £20 and planned to sell it on to Cash Converters for £50.

After initially pleading not guilty on November 11, he changed his plea to guilty on January 21 at Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court.

Burke also pleaded guilty to stealing £49 iPod speakers from Asda in the Crumbles retail park on December 11.

Burke, who was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, was going to buy the speakers as a birthday present for his daughter and went to the self-checkout to buy them.

Burke told police he intended to purchase the item but changed his mind at the last minute, trying to make off with the speakers. Burke was stopped by staff before he could leave the shop.

Andrew Whelpton, defending, said, “This was a low value theft which was committed impulsively by Mr Burke.

“He was buying a present for his daughter and he did have enough money to pay for that item but at the checkout decided to take it rather than pay for it.

“He accepts it was wrong to do that.”

Burke was given a 12-month community order and fined £250 in total for both offences.