Hopeless intruder caught after disguise fails to hide his identity

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

IT didn't take Sherlock Holmes to crack the case of the campus creeper – hardly a master criminal like the fictional detective's nemesis Moriarty.

Police caught Danny Hargreaves after thousands of pounds worth of equipment was stolen from Teesside University – because he had done it before.

In fact, he went to the same building in central Middlesbrough twice in the same day – although the second time he was not-so-cunningly disguised.

The jobless 27-year-old was carrying a book and had put on a pair of glasses to look like a student, prosecutor David Crook told Teesside Crown Court.

Police quickly linked the raids in October to earlier break-ins in June and arrested the hopeless intruder – but not before he sold his £2,600 loot.

The court heard how former crisp factory worker Hargreaves had a ready market for the computer gear he took from the university's laboratories.

“He clearly knows what equipment is there and where he can dispose of it,” Mr Crook told the court. “He is a repeat offender at those premises.

“There was a significant degree of loss to the victim and some level of persistence. It was organised because he disguised himself on the second occasion.”

The court heard how Hargreaves was given a community order for two break-ins at the university in June – one which netted him £1,200 of gear.

After being caught for the double-raid on October 24, he also confessed to sneaking in and trying to take an overhead projector a month earlier.

Mr Crook said Hargreaves stole a £1,300 hard-drive and a software unit worth £800 before returning two hours later and making off with a £500 monitor.

He told the court: “He had changed his clothes and was apparently carrying a book to help disguise him, as if he was a student, and wearing glasses.”

The judge, Recorder Edward Bindloss, adjourned sentencing for three weeks so a report from Hargreaves's doctor can be obtained.

He told defence lawyer, Graham Brown, that he had planned to lock him up, but was prepared to take into account an apparent schizophrenia diagnosis.

Mr Brown had earlier asked the judge to take a “merciful approach” because Hargreaves was also a carer for his brother, who had suffered a stroke.

“I would urge Your Honour to actively consider the suspending of a sentence, although I recognise that would involve the court taking a calculated, appropriate, cogent and constructive risk, rather than simply giving him another chance.”

He said an 18-month period of staying clear of crime came to an end only after his medical diagnosis and Hargreaves's grandmother died.

Hargreaves, of Granville Road, Middlesbrough, admitted two burglaries and asked for another to be taken into consideration at an earlier hearing.

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