Boats burglar jailed for two years

By Chris Willmott Thursday 13 December 2012 Updated: 13/12 09:58

A BURGLAR who ransacked two narrow boats moored on the Grand Union canal at Lapworth and later robbed two schoolboys on the towpath has been jailed for two years.

Mark Coffey (21) of Chinbrook Road, Billesley, Birmingham, had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to two charges of burglary and two of robbery.

Prosecutor Charles Gardner said that Coffey’s first burglary victim was a Land Rover worker who lives on a narrow boat which is moored at Lapworth.

On November 29 last year he was taken ill at work, as a result of which he was kept in hospital for two weeks.

When he returned to his home he found the hatch had been jemmied open, the boat ransacked and camera equipment and electrical items worth £2,497 had been stolen.

The electrical inverter had also been pulled off the bulkhead, leaving him with no heating or lighting – so, having just come out of hospital, he had to stay with his family.

A woman living on a boat, which was moored nearby, went away over the Christmas period – and returned to a similar scene.

This time the haul had included a gas water heater, the inverter and engine parts, as well as personal items, worth a total of £2,900 – but the owner had to pay out a further £2,400 for repairs.

Coffey was tracked down by a fingerprint in the dining area of one of the boats and admitted the second break-in but initially denied the first.

Then in August two boys, aged 12 and 13, got separated from their friends while they were out riding their bikes, and found themselves on the canal towpath near the Drawbridge pub at Hockley Heath.

They saw Coffey talking to someone on a narrow boat and asked him for directions – which he gave, but then threatened to push the youngest in the canal unless they handed over their phone.

He then cycled after the 13-year-old and forced him to hand over his jacket, threatening to push him into the canal.

When the two friends got to the main road, they went to a house where the owner called the police.

Coffey was arrested in a pub in Hockley Heath after his bike was seen propped up against the wall.

Jabeen Akhtar, defending, said Coffey’s father had died in March last year and he began drinking too much.

She said the robberies were opportunistic and had involved ‘minimal violence’.

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