An alcoholic on a vodka and cocaine binge broke into his wife’s work and stole vouchers, cash and iPads worth £20,000 as “vengeance” – after learning she was cheating on him.
Richard O’Brien, 41, recruited friend Sidney Davies, 47, to help raid The Lordship Tea Room in Writtle on the evening of November 6 last year, Chelmsford Crown Court heard on Wednesday at their sentencing hearing (May 11).
Prosecuting, Adam Butler said: “On November 7, the staff discovered that a window had been broken, the French doors forced open and glass was all over the floor.
“CCTV showed two men attempting to gain entry to the building at about 10pm the night before; one face was visible and eventually led to Sidney Davies, while blood was found on a filing cabinet, which matched the DNA of Richard O’Brien.
“The lost items and damage was estimated as coming to £3,690 and because the tea room had to be closed, there was also a loss of earnings of about £2,000.”
The Lordship Tea Room in Writtle was broken into on November 7 last year
Essex Police launched an investigation into the incident, leading to the arrest of O’Brien on November 18 and Davies a week later, and charges.
The pair, both of whom have extensive previous convictions including burglaries, initially denied any involvement in the break-in during police interviews, but entered guilty pleas in Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court on January 6.
O’Brien, of Hunts Drive, Writtle, discovered during a row that his wife had been seeing another man, before buying a litre of vodka and quantities of cocaine and diazepam.
After drinking and taking the drugs on the village green, he woke up in Paradise Park the following morning, covered in cuts and no memory of the burglary taking place.
Mitigating on his behalf, Daniel Setter said O’Brien had suffered with mental health problems, alongside a dependency on class A drugs and alcohol, but was eager to turn his life around.
He added: “It was not an offence carried out to make personal gain for himself, it was a matter of vengeance.
“He is extremely remorseful; he cannot believe he did what he did on the night in question.
“He considers it a matter of great embarrassment and shame, not only for himself, but for his family and children.
“There is a desire to improve his life; he knows this is the time to change and change for good.”
The court heard that when Davies, of Hunts Close, Writtle, was arrested, O’Brien was also at the house when the police came knocking.
Representing Davies, Sasha Bailey said that her client had struggled with alcoholism, made worse by his diagnosis of diabetes five years ago.
She also said that a custodial sentence would not be appropriate, given that Davies, who was only released from prison in April 2015 for handling stolen goods, acts as a carer for his father, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease.
“He doesn’t wish to find himself before the courts any longer,” she said.
“He has reached the point in his life now where he realises he simply cannot carry on in the spiral he has been in.”
Following the break-in, the tea rooms, run by Wilkin and Sons in Tiptree, were forced to change their security systems, as well as their work rota to ensure that one person was never left alone in the premises.
In a statement from the café read out to the court, while many customers had remained “supportive”, the incident had affected staff and senior management.
While Judge Emma Peters admitted that she sympathised with the personal problems both Davies and O’Brien had gone through, she said nothing other than a prison term would suffice for the pair.
“Burglaries are about more than just value,” she said.
“They are about the impact it has on a particular premises. This isn’t a home, but it is a tea room in the centre of a village community.
“It was a deeply unpleasant burglary; not only did you break and vandalise the shop, but you, Mr O’Brien, chose to go there as some form of punishment to your partner, simply because she worked there.
“You both have problems with alcohol and drugs, and you don’t only offend together, you socialise together as well.
“This court has a duty to punish and deter as well as rehabilitate.
“I’m sorry gentlemen; I can see that there are reasons why I might have kept you out, but both of you deserve to go to prison.”
O’Brien, a father of five, was jailed for 12 months, while Davies will serve nine months behind bars.
Speaking after the verdict, a spokeswoman for Wilkin and Sons said: “On behalf of the company, we are just glad that the matter has now been resolved.”