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Armed Stakeford thief behind bars after burgling church during week-long crime spree

Stephen McLeod was in possession of a hammer and chisel when he was caught inside the building having stacked up items he intended on stealing

An armed thief is behind bars after he burgled a church during a week-long crime spree.

Stephen McLeod was in possession of a hammer and chisel when he was found by police inside the Church of the Holy Family, in Choppington, Northumberland, having stacked up items he intended on stealing from the premises. A court heard the burglary was the third offence the 37-year-old had committed within seven days, having already been captured on camera trying to steal cash from a pressure machine at a garage and smashing the main door at a Co-op store.

The lout, who has 46 offences on his record, was arrested and appeared in custody at South East Northumberland Magistrates' Court this week, where he pleaded guilty to burglary, possession of an offensive weapon, going equipped for burglary, attempted theft and criminal damage. He was remanded in custody to be sentenced to Newcastle Crown Court on July 19.

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Greg Flaxen, prosecuting, said McLeod was first captured on camera approaching the entrance of the Co-op store on June 11 and using an unknown item to smash the door. The cost to replace the glass was £2,000.

Six days later, McLeod entered the forecourt of Penny Petroleum, in Stakeford, and tried to get cash out of a pressure machine. He's arrested for that and charged to appear in court in July.

However, less than 24 hours later and despite being on bail, McLeod struck again. Mr Flaxen said: "The defendant gained entry to a church and the police are made aware due to the alarm and security lights. Police entered the church and the defendant is found in there. He's in possession of a hammer, which he says he's carrying for his own protection.

"He also has a chisel, so he's gone equipped for the burglary. Items have been stacked up in order to take. The vicar confirms the items belong to the church."

The court was told that McLeod, of Riversdale Court, in Stakeford, had recently moved to the area, having stayed out of trouble for five years. Paul Dunn, defending, added: "This offending marks an unfortunate return to his offending behaviour. Underpinning it seems to be a combination of using drugs, tablets and alcohol."


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