Sunday, 23 September 2018

Man admits stealing from rugby players at match

A MAN has admitted stealing thousands of pounds’ worth of personal possessions from Henley Rugby Club’s women’s team.

A MAN has admitted stealing thousands of pounds’ worth of personal possessions from Henley Rugby Club’s women’s team.

Alan Philip, 62, pleaded guilty when he appeared at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday last week accused of stealing from the changing rooms at the team’s match at Hove Rugby Club in East Sussex.

Philip, unemployed, of no fixed address, also admitted a burglary in Gwent in June. He will be sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on February 13.

As the Henley Standard reported last week, the Hawks’ players traced the thief using the internet and software on their stolen mobile phones after he accidentally took a photo with one of the devices.

Officers from Sussex Police visited Dry Leas last week to return some of the items recovered but these didn’t include any of the 20 or more mobile phones or two wedding rings that were taken. Physiotherapist Louise Carr, who had handed over the items to Philip, thinking he was an official from the opposing club, said she was happy he had owned up as she had felt “a bit silly” about being duped.

She said: “When they said they’d found him it was a big weight lifted.

“The girls are quite proud of what they managed to do with regards to helping the police. They are also glad some of the things are back — the keys and the wallets.

“They just want to get hold of the guy more than anything. They’re like, ‘put him in the middle of a rugby pitch and see what happens!’ I think he needs prison time for what he’s done. Psychologically it does affect the victim in a way he probably doesn’t think of.”

Coach Alistair Mortimore said: “It’s great that he has been caught and that everyone rallied around. Unfortunately not everything the girls were hoping for has come back. I feel sorry for the girls who have lost more personal and expensive items and those who are out of pocket.”

Most of the visiting players were outside warming up when Miss Carr and a player coach were approached by Philip posing as a home club official while they were still in the changing rooms at Hove recreation ground.

He said he was locking up and would store the team’s possessions for them for safety. Instead, he made off with their two bags full of valuables, which included bracelets and several sets of house and car keys.

The theft was only discovered after the match, which the Hawks won 12-7, when the women returned to the changing rooms.

The team had a stroke of luck when the thief inadvertently took a picture on Mr Mortimore’s stolen phone, a Nokia Lumia 830, of another phone on a distinctive red bedspread.

The picture automatically appeared on his Microsoft OneDrive account, which allows users to access photos and files from almost anywhere, the day after the theft.

Meanwhile, player Amy Atkinson managed to follow the thief’s movements via the tracking application installed on her stolen phone.

Another player used the website Trip Advisor to search for hotels and bed and breakfasts on Brighton seafront near the last known location of Miss Atkinson’s phone.

Coupled with the picture of the bedspread, she spotted a photo from a hotel she believed matched.

The club tipped off Sussex Police who went to the Atlantic Seafront Hotel in Brighton two days after the theft and arrested Philip.

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