Moved home after break-in at their house
Raider left it like‘a Bond movie’
A“devastating”break-in led to an elderly Uddingston couple selling their home of nearly 50 years.
Alistair and Mandy Struthers were on holiday in Wales when they were told their home had been ransacked.
Charles Donnelly was jailed for three years at Hamilton Sheriff Court last week. He was found guilty of breaking into the property in Belleisle Avenue in April 2016 and stealing items worth thousands of pounds as well as a Volvo Estate.
Donnelly (53), a prisoner, had denied the charges despite his DNA being on a hammer left behind in the house and a torch found in the car which was recovered in Cambuslang hours after the break-in.
The alarm was raised by a neighbour, who noticed the day after the couple went on holiday that the glass front door had been smashed.
Mrs Struthers (71) told the court she was secretary of Uddingston Community Council and two laptops – one her own and one which belonged to the council – were stolen as well as an ipad, cameras and “quite a lot of jewellery”.
She told the jury: “There was stuff of great sentimental value – heirlooms. I was really upset to lose a set of pearls with diamonds which had been in the family for well over 100 years.”
None of the stolen recovered.
Mr Struthers, who is 73, said there was damage to doors and windows. Spare keys for relatives’ houses were also stolen, which meant their son and daughter had to get their locks changed.
Mr Struthers said: “The house had been ransacked, from top to bottom. We had stayed there for 48 years, most of our lives.”
Asked by fiscal Paula Russell about the effects of the break-in, the pensioner replied: “It was a huge shock. You don’t think that is going to happen to you.
“It unsettled us, and for months afterwards I would wake up in the early hours of the morning at the slightest noise. I would sit bolt upright in bed.
“We had been thinking, given our age and the size of the house, about moving. That (break-in) was the trigger for it and we decided to go.”
The couple’s son Scott (51) helped clear up after the break-in and described the property was scene as like something from a James Bond movie.
Scott is a former secretary of Hamilton Accies and works as a freelance football administrator, inspecting stadia throughout Europe.
He explained: “The best way I can describe the house is to liken it to a James Bond film, where someone has searched through every drawer and cupboard in every room, emptying or turning over everything.
“That was the house from top to bottom. It was an absolute mess. Mum and dad had set off to return from Wales, and my sister and I tried to make the house presentable before they got home.
“They’re in their 70s. It’s not what you want to happen. They were devastated, and it led to them moving house six months ago.”
Only last month, Donnelly was jailed for two years and eight months for breaking into a house in Anderson Street, Hamilton, and assaulting the householder, who disturbed him, and a police officer.
The latest case hinged on DNA evidence. Donnelly’s DNA, and no one else’s, was found on a torch in the Volvo. His DNA and that of three unknown persons was also on a hammer left at the scene of the housebreaking.
Donnelly’s solicitor, Jackson Bateman, pointed out that an individual’s DNA could be transferred to an item without that person having actually touched it – for example, if he shook someone’s hand and that person then handled the item.
Mr Bateman told the jury that DNA wouldn’t show up if a person was wearing latex gloves, so they shouldn’t conclude from Donnelly’s DNA being on the torch that he and he alone had handled it.
Donnelly went into the witness box and said: “I can’t remember what I was doing that night, because it was so long ago. But it was nothing to do with me. I wasn’t there.”
After the guilty verdicts, the fiscal revealed Donnelly has 21 previous convictions for housebreaking and two for car theft.
Mr Bateman said his client has struggled with heroin addiction for years.
Sheriff David Bicket imposed a three-year prison stretch, backdated to December 13 as Donnelly has been in custody since then.