Shrinking 'collection boxes ain't what they used to be': Complaint of thief who cycled around Britain stealing from over 600 church charity tinsChristopher Coulthard jailed for four years at Hull Crown Court yesterdayTargeted collection boxes and antique safes in churches around countryBelieved to be responsible for more than 600 church burglaries in Britain
13:15 GMT, 24 April 2013
00:54 GMT, 25 April 2013
Prolific: Christopher Coulthard, 50, was jailed for four years at Hull Crown Court for stealing from church collection boxes
During his lifetime of sin Christopher Coulthard has crossed the country on his bicycle stealing from more than 630 churches.
And after his latest arrest this unrepentant thief complained to probation workers that ‘collection boxes are not what they used to be’, a court heard.
Churches may be struggling financially, but that has not stopped Coulthard continuing to burgle safes and collection boxes of cash donated by worshippers.
Yesterday Coulthard, 50, was jailed for four years after admitting four burglaries and asking for 34 more to be taken into consideration.
Passing sentence at Hull Crown Court, Recorder Julian Smith said the thief had remarked about the ‘poor return you are now getting compared to the good old days’. He told the defendant: ‘The churches you burgle are valued to their community. It matters not whether you are religious. They are treasure for their heritage.’
The Church has borne the brunt of his astonishing life of crime that began when he started committing burglaries at 13.
Coulthard has spent about 30 of his 50 years behind bars. He has 26 convictions for 105 offences, with many hundreds more thefts ‘taken into consideration’ by the courts when passing sentence.
Over the past 12 years alone Coulthard has admitted about 635 church raids in counties across the length and breadth of the nation.
Caught out: Coulthard was finally arrested after worshippers at St Andrews Church, Ulrome, East Yorkshire, noticed him acting suspiciously and called police
Jailed: Recorder Julian Smith sentenced Christopher Coulthard to four years in prison at Hull Crown Court
Riding a bicycle and carrying maps and
an electric drill in his saddlebag, he targeted churches from London to
the Lake District as soon as he was released from his latest jail term
Wendy Foster, prosecuting, said he was
caught by worshippers at a Sunday service in the village of Ulrome,
East Yorkshire, who noticed a man acting suspiciously inside the church.
Police arrested him on his mountain bike. As on previous occasions,
Coulthard was quick to confess and told officers: ‘If this is about the
churches, I am pleased you found me.’
Richard Thompson, defending, said:
‘There’s something inherently unpleasant about burgling churches, he
concedes that. There are some hints he plans a different lifestyle in
Target: St Martin's Church, Burton Agnes, was one of 34 churches in East Yorkshire where Christopher Coulthard stole money
Criminal acts: He used knitting needles to pick ancient locks and scissors to remove notes from collection boxes (file picture)
But he has said that before. In 2003
Coulthard, of no fixed address, was jailed for four years at Swansea
Crown Court after admitting 15 church burglaries and asking for 502
similar offences to be taken into consideration.
He hid his burglary kit in a camera
case to pass as a tourist and stayed in hotels, committing an average of
two thefts a day.
He used knitting needles to pick ancient locks and
scissors to remove notes from collection boxes.
Three years later, at Ipswich Crown
Court, he was jailed for five years for stealing from three collection
boxes and asking for 76 similar offences to be taken into consideration.