Policeman’s home targeted by neighbours

A police officer whose house in Padiham was burgled extended the long arm of the law next door when he found out a “lean-to” had been built onto his neighbour’s home with stolen metal sheeting, a court heard.
Burnley Magistrates Court.Burnley Magistrates Court.
Burnley Magistrates Court.

Lee Butterworth had been getting his terrace property on Thompson Street ready for new tenants when another nearby resident told him the immediate neighbour had just put a “shelter” over his back door.

The victim went to have a look and then discovered the metal panels were more than just similar to some he had had stored in his cellar – they were his.

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Burnley magistrates were told how the officer had found his cellar door lock had been forced and went to see neighbour David Sowerby, who rented a room in a house shared by two men next door. He also found his tumble dryer was in Sowerby’s kitchen.

The jobless defendant claimed to Mr Butterworth that he had got the sheets off Burnley Buy and Sell on Facebook but told the court the property had been in a back alleyway and he thought it had been discarded.

Sowerby (37) an ex- amphetamine addict, admitted receiving stolen goods – the metal panels, a bench, model cars, the tumble dryer, a weight bar, a blue bin and some Rockport boots, worth £600, on or between July 10th and 20th.

He was given an eight-week curfew, between 7pm and 7am, seven days a week and was ordered to pay £100 compensation, a £60 victim surcharge and a £180 criminal courts charge. Chairman John James told him: “You had absolutely no right to effectively help yourself to the items.”

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Prosecutor Alex Mann said Mr Butterworth reported a burglary to the police on July 20th. He had gone to do some odd jobs at the house when he was told about the “shelter”.

The metal sheeting looked very similar to some he had in his cellar. She continued: “At this point he says he laughed at himself and thought it was a coincidence.”

The victim then found his cellar had been broken into and that the panels were his. He went next door and asked who built the shelter. He was told: “It was not me, it was one of the other lads that live here.”

Sowerby presented himself at the door said he had got them from Burnley Buy and Sell. He denied any knowledge of them having been taken from a cellar.

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Ben Leech (defending) said Sowerby knew the house owner was a police officer. The items had come from a rear alleyway and Sowerby genuinely thought his neighbour was having a clear out.

The defendant was not responsible for the burglary. He had never been in Mr Butterworth’s house, but accepted he had come across a number of items which he used in his own back yard. A lean-to was made over the back door, he used the blue bin and mounted an outdoor tap on the wall.

The solicitor told the court Sowerby formerly used amphetamine and seemed to be doing well on a drug rehabilitation requirement.

He added: “The defendant’s primary aim in life is being there for his children. He sees them every day.”