Moved home after break-in at their house

Raider left it like‘a Bond movie’

Hamilton Advertiser - - ON THE BEAT - Court re­porter

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.

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