Church collection box thief is jailed

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A THIEF who snatched a collection box from a church and stole from his own neighbour has been jailed.

Jimmy Hoofe left his pensioner neighbour devastated after precious family memories were lost when he stole her camera.

In a victim impact statement read out at Liverpool Crown Court, the great-grandmother said: “For him to pick on a pensioner is diabolical, he has tortured me mentally.”

The 67-year-old woman has been left nervous and anxious and had lost memories as 400 photographs of her family, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren, were in the stolen camera, said Harry Pepper, prosecuting.

The court heard that less than an hour later Hoofe stole a charity collection box from a nearby church and ran off with it.

Jailing him for 15 months, Judge Stephen Clarke said: “This was a serious burglary because of the vulnerability of the victim. The effect on her is very marked indeed. The item you stole, for which you received a pittance, has taken away from her many happy memories.

“It has had a marked effect on her physically, mentally or emotionally.”

Hoofe, 24, of Maple Crescent, Westleigh, pleaded guilty to burglary, theft and had two other burglaries taken into consideration.

The court heard that one of those offences involved stealing a handbag from Wigan & Leigh Pension Resources Centre on March 8.

Mr Pepper said that the burglary victim was in her home in Maple Crescent on April 3 and saw a bicycle in her yard. She then found Hoofe in her kitchen, having walked through the open back door.

“He was rooting through her shopping bags. She asked ‘what are you doing?’, He said ‘okay’, picked up his bike and pushed it out of the yard and cycled away. He had stolen her camera,” said Mr Pepper.

Shortly afterwards, at 8.50am that Sunday morning Hoofe was seen sitting on a pew in St Paul’s Church, Westleigh, next to a cardboard collection box for donations for victims of the Japanese tsunami.

“He picked up the box, shook it, heard it rattle and ran out of the church with it and cycled away,” said Mr Pepper.

A member of the church tried in vain to stop him. He was later arrested and when interviewed denied the offences but admitted he had been taking heroin.

David Watson, defending, said that Hoofe, who has previous convictions but none for dwelling house burglaries, had been leading a chaotic lifestyle.

He said: “He got a pittance for the camera and spent it on drugs. His parents were at their end of their tether with him but since he has been in prison on remand they are now supporting him again.”