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JAILED: Prolific thief targeted Willenhall shops in one-man crime wave

Wolverhampton | News | Published: | Last Updated:

A prolific thief who targeted shops in Willenhall during a one-man crime wave has been locked up for three years and eight months.

Andrew Bowering struck at shops and businesses in Willenhall – some more than once – 27 times in a month.

He hurled bricks and lumps of concrete through widows to steal over £7,000 worth of goods while causing at least £6,000 damage.

But the real cost was to the future of the town where several traders are now thinking of shutting up shop for good, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.

The 22-year-old was on bail for an unrelated offence when he stole face cream and make up with a total value of £465 from the local branches of Superdrug and Boots on April 16 and 18 respectively.

Bowering then committed 25 burglaries at shops in the town between April 30 and his arrest on May 16.

He broke into commercial premises ranging from fast food outlets – Pizza Hut on Willenhall Road was hit twice in as many days – to the Willenhall Chart Community Centre.

Betfred was also broken into during the spate of raids
Blunts Shoes, in Market Place, Willenhall, was among the shops targeted

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Charity boxes were included in his haul from Pizza Hut and Blunt Shoes, revealed Mr Mark Phillips, prosecuting.

Money was stolen from other stores along with hairdressing equipment and even ice cream.

Helen Kempson, manager at Blunts Shoes, told police: "He stole a till, worth £350, that contained just £1. It was heartbreaking to see break-ins here and elsewhere in the town.

"It seemed mindless to cause further expense to shops that are already struggling. It has made me think whether I can still afford to operate a business in Willenhall."

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Other traders issued similarly grim warnings.

Bowering took a £100 TV after breaking into the Willenhall Chart Community Centre and stole £750 worth of hairdressing equipment from Scissors Hair Design. Betfred was also broken into.

Mr Simon Hanns, defending, said: "He is keenly aware of the impact this mini crime wave has had on local business.

The reason for his offending is that he is addicted to drugs. He is the black sheep of his family and wants to show that he can change for the better."

Bowering, from Gomer Street, Willenhall, admitted two thefts, 10 burglaries and possession of both heroin and cocaine between April 16 and May 16 and asked for 15 more burglaries committed during the same period to be taken into consideration.

He was jailed by Judge James Burbidge who told him: "You failed to get your methadone prescription, your addiction took hold of you and you targeted these premises.

"Beyond being a menace your behaviour has put the livelihoods of small businesses serving the local community in jeopardy."

Following the sentence, Alana Brayshaw, development manager at the Willenhall Chart Community Centre, in Gomer Street, welcomed the three year sentence.

But she raised concerns over continued Government cuts, which she said were impacting police coverage and initiatives combating anti-social behaviour.

She said Bowering broke into the centre through a glass window before making off with a CCTV monitoring television. She said he also tried to make off with sweet machines, but was unable to take them from the building.

The centre provides health, fitness and well-being activities. It features a gym and is well used in the community.

Ms Brayshaw said: "The TV screen would not have been any use to him, while the sweet machine he was unable to take away.

"It was disappointing and caused us inconvenience as we had applied for funding for the television, then we had to go and get a new one.

"It was only a few hundred pounds, but for a group like ours which relies on donations it was difficult."

She added: "Yes, he is caught and we have a good relationship with local police, but my own personal concerns are with the cuts and lack in provision in our area.

"I just feel it could get worse and antisocial behaviour increase. We now have installed extra cameras and better sensors and alarms to try and ensure this does not happen again."

The Express & Star revealed there had been a spate of reported break-ins in the town last month. Police said 25 burglaries were committed in the first three weeks of May.

Blu Photography was targeted twice by thieves, who made off with around £5,000 worth of equipment including MacBooks and cameras. Andy Newell, who runs the family-run photographic studio, said he was 'absolutely sick' by the targets.

He added: "I am coming in every morning worried about opening the front door because I don't know what I am going to find."

Other shops which were targeted during the month were a Cancer Research charity shop and Little Angels Button and Craft Supplies.

Others shop owners who had not been targeted also voiced their concerns.

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