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Man wanted in connection with church burglaries
A PROLIFIC church burglar who has targeted more than 500 churches and chapels is being hunted by police after a series of break-ins in North Yorkshire.
Christopher John Coulthard, 50, was jailed for nine years in 2010 after admitting burglaries in Worcestershire, but three senior judges slashed his sentence to six years at the Court of Appeal and he was then released on license in November 2012.
He is now wanted in connection with 15 break-ins in the space of a week at churches in Easingwold, Helmsley, Kirkbymoorside, Ripon, Leyburn, Aysgarth and Settle.
Cash has been taken from the collection box or the petty cash tins but in others a break-in or attempted break-in has resulted in nothing being stolen, police said. Coulthard - who is known to travel the countryside on a bicycle and stay at bed and breakfasts, pubs and hotels using a false name - is wanted by Warwickshire Police for recall to prison after breaching the terms of his licence.
Detectives are urging staff in the hospitality trade to contact the police if they recognise Coulthard as one of their customers.
A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “Officers believe he may be working his way around the country and are extending the appeal to hotels and guest houses in the neighbouring counties of North Yorkshire including the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humber regions, although he could strike anywhere in the country.”
At the Court of Appeal hearing in 2011, it was reported Lord Justice Laws said Coulthard had a “spectacular” record for crime, with convictions for 101 offences, mostly burglary and theft, and had spent about 30 of his then 49 years in prison.
When previously before a court in Swansea in 2003, Coulthard had asked for a further 502 crimes at churches and chapels to be taken into consideration.
But Lord Justice Laws said despite the record, nine years was too long. Churches which have reported incidents are: St Andrew’s Church, Finghall, Leyburn, St Andrew’s church, Aysgarth, St Bartholomew’s, West Witton, Leyburn, St Michael’s Church, Spennithorne, Leyburn, Holy Trinity, Wensley near Leyburn, Holy Trinity Church, Ripon, St Mary’s Church, Masham, St Curthberts and St Oswalds, Winksely, Ripon, St Michael’s Church, Littlethorpe near Ripon, St Hilda’s Church, Ampleforth, St Mary’s Church, Rievaulx Bank, Helmsley, St Mary’s Church, High Street, Helmsley, St Gregory’s Minster, Welburn, Kirkbymoorside, St John’s Priory, Easingwold, and Holy Ascension Church, Settle. Anyone who knows where Coulthard might be is asked to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 or pass information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.