Northampton university porter used company van to steal £58,000 of supplies in 'pillaging' spree

Mark Hulka's haul included filing cabinets, furniture, printer cartridges and even the Little Annie CPR teaching dolls

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 6:00 am

A porter at the University of Northampton used a company van to steal £58,000 worth of office supplies and sell them on eBay.

Mark Hulka, of Reynard Way, was caught in 2018 after a member of staff noticed a printer they had just restocked with toner was suddenly empty.

But it led to an investigation that revealed the 49-year-old university handyman had spent years helping himself to virtually anything he could get his hands on so he could flog it online.

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Mark Hulka used a van provided by the university to steal virtually anything he could get his hands on.

Northampton Crown Court heard yesterday (March 29) how Hulka's haul over the years included computer supplies, printing inks, furniture, catering equipment, filing cabinets, teaching aids and even the 'Little Annie' dolls used to teach CPR.

"In my judgement it was nothing less than a pillaging exercise," said Recorder Mr Jacob Hallam in sentencing. "You took anything that caught your eye in order to sell it on eBay.

"You had full access to the sites of the university to move items around as you were told to - or, as with regards to your offending, as you saw fit.

"You could go anywhere you wanted, confident you would not be challenged over what you were doing."

The 49-year-old was caught after an unnamed member of staff did some detective work and determined that the culprit would have needed a van, as well as narrowing down when they started working for the university.

They trawled eBay for the items that had gone missing to see if they had a match, which led them to finding the online store page.

Prosecutor Chris Jeyes told the court: "Through this, they saw some of the sales items pictured were marked in code with black permanent marker, as done by the University's postal team to show which room it should be sent to.

"And, in one of the images, they could see a trainer such as the ones worn by the defendant."

Later, analysis of the page would suggest Hulka had stolen £58,600 worth of equipment, and sold it for as much as £13,000 across up to 287 sales.

The university submitted their evidence to the police and Hulka was arrested shortly after.

When his house was searched, police found no stolen equipment - which suggested the porter had heard of the investigation through the university grapevine and made it disappear. He later pleaded guilty to the thefts.

The court heard, however, that much of what Hulka stole would normally be distributed to charities and other universities once the institution was done with it, leading to a knock on effect for others.

The court heard the 49-year-old was "extremely sorry to the university, staff, students and the charities who were affected," and reportedly needed the money to pay off gambling debts.

In sentencing, Mr Hallam said: "The value of the equipment you stole would have paid the salaries of two members of staff.

"Your actions have had wide-ranging and financially detrimental effects on a wide range of people and that is all your fault.

"These offences are so serious that it can only be met with an immediate custodial sentence."

Hulka was jailed for 18 months. He is expected to return to court in July to begin a proceeds of crime hearing on how he will pay the money back.