Bandit burglar admits Corby raid

A Corby man once wanted over dozens of raids on the town's pubs and clubs has admitted his role in one of them.

Stephen Hill, 32, was Corby's most sought after man after police linked him with several smash and grab burglaries involving fruit machines over the course of months which left pub owners terrified.

Stephen Hill.

Stephen Hill.

Hill was finally tracked down hiding under a blanket in a car on the town's Lincoln estate in December before he was charged over four incidents as part of Operation Trebuchet, an inquiry into the crime wave.

He is now facing jail after admitting being behind a raid at the Beefeater in Little Colliers Field on October 4, making off with £146 after jemmying open a door.

He will be sentenced tomorrow (Wednesday).

But the trial surrounding two incidents in three days at the Spread Eagle in Oakley Road collapsed at Northampton Crown Court yesterday.

The jury was shown CCTV footage of a dark car pulling up outside the popular Marston's pub in the early hours of September 29. A man got out and smashed a window before reaching inside. He was disturbed and made off.

Days later on October 1 the pub was burgled. CCTV showed the same car pulling up before a man broke into the pub and smashed a fruit machine, taking £300.

The car on the footage, a BMW 3 Series, was later recovered by police at a garage in Grimsby Close, just 60m from Hill's Gainsborough Road home.

Prosecuting, Priya Bakshi said: "Whose fingerprints were found in the car? The defendant's.

"What was found in the car? The money from the burglary."

But Hill's DNA, found on a window and mirror, was not the only recovered from the vehicle. Blood matching that of the car's registered owner, Daniel Bates, was found on the driver's door.
When interviewed Mr Bates said he sold the vehicle to a man from Corby but had not changed the vehicle's registration details because he was still awaiting some payment. He said the blood was a result of an injury he suffered while working on the car and declined to name the man he sold the car to.

Defending, Tom Worden argued that Hill - who did not take the stand - had no case to answer as the evidence was 'vague and tenuous'.

He said: "The evidence is equally strong, if not stronger, that it was Daniel Bates and not the defendant."

Judge Rebecca Crane agreed and ordered a jury to find Hill not guilty over the two Spread Eagle incidents.

And later in the afternoon the jury of nine women and three men took just 16 minutes to find him unanimously not guilty of a third allegation.

St James Snooker Club in St James Road was broken into on October 21, with £250 stolen from a fruit machine.

CCTV showed a man with a woollen hat entering through the beer garden in the minutes before the money was stolen.

A hat was recovered from near the perimeter fence of the crime scene.

Ms Bakshi said: "No guesses for whose DNA was found on the hat. It was the defendant's."

She added that it was 'no coincidence' and that this was the same modus operandi as the Beefeater burglary.

But Mr Worden said that there was no evidence that the hat found was the hat worn by the man who burgled the snooker club.

He said: "You can sum up the crown's case by saying this: a hat that had Mr Hill's DNA on it was found somewhere in the vicinity of a fence where the burglary took place.

"There is no evidence as to when it was left there. We cannot even be sure it was the same hat that was worn by the person who broke in...this is a weak case based on one fact."

Hill let out a whoop of delight as he was found not guilty.

He has been on remand since December - the equivalent of a one-year prison sentence - and is likely to be walking Corby's streets soon whatever sentence is passed tomorrow.