‘Prolific’ thief admits stealing from pensioner and burgling schools

North Somerset Courthouse.

North Somerset Courthouse. - Credit: Archant

A 97-YEAR-OLD man has said he lost his ‘lifeline’ after a thief with a ‘horrific’ record for dishonesty stole his iPad during a computer lesson at Weston Library.

The Banwell pensioner was waiting for tuition on how to use the iPad at the Town Hall when Gary Harford stole a bag which contained the high-tech device.

The victim – who asked for his name to be withheld – said: “My lifeline was stolen from me when the iPad was taken. I use FaceTime to stay in touch with my family, including my granddaughter in Australia.

“This has made me feel older and has shaken my confidence but I am being supported by my family, who have replaced the iPad for me.”

North Somerset Courthouse heard on Friday how 37-year-old Harford, of Ashcombe Road, stole the iPad from the library in Walliscote Road on May 14. He also admitted to entering two Weston schools and stealing seven mobile phones from the girls’ changing rooms while students were in a PE lesson last month.

Jane Cooper, prosecuting, said: “The defendant has a prolific record for dishonesty. He is willing to take anything in the hope that something is in it.

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“On May 14, the 97-year-old victim was carrying a green bag from Greenslade Opticians and had the iPad in a brown leather case. He also had a brown leather bound notebook and his library card.

“He was waiting for his class to start and briefly got up from his seat in the waiting area, but forgot to pick up his bag.

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“The defendant passed the bag, picked it up and took a detour around the library shelves. He then left the building.

“Police searched the defendant’s home and found the Greenslade bag in a kitchen bin.”

Regarding the school thefts, Ms Cooper added: “The defendant went to Worle School on April 28 and entered the girls’ changing room while the pupils were in a sports lesson.

“About an hour later, he went to Priory and took two mobile phones from students’ bags, again in changing rooms. The victims were all aged between 12 and 13. The items taken were iPhones and Samsungs and are easily saleable.”

Anjam Arif, defending, also admitted that Harford had a ‘horrific’ record for dishonesty.

He said: “He (Harford) saw the bag and had no idea it belonged to this elderly gentleman, and rather foolishly decided to take it on impulse. This was not a deliberately targeted crime.

“It is clear he should know better, but he is extremely sorry that he did it.

“He also accepts he has entered these two different schools as a trespasser and taken the phones, (and) there must have been an element of planning, certainly for the second offence here.”

A Priory spokesman said: “This was very speedy work by the local police, and the new CCTV system at school proved very valuable.

“All phones are now back with their rightful owners.”

Harford pleaded guilty to one count of theft against a vulnerable person and two counts of burglary at North Somerset Courthouse. He will be sentenced on June 12 at Bristol Crown Court.

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