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Prolific church burglar back in custody
A PROLIFIC burglar who has targeted more than 500 churches and chapels has admitted a spree across North and East Yorkshire.
Christopher John Coulthard, 50, was today charged with four counts of burglary and one of theft at religious establishments in North Yorkshire and Humberside and asked for a further 31 offences to be taken into account.
Coulthard was jailed for nine years in 2010 after admitting burglaries in Worcestershire, but appeal judges slashed his sentence to six years and he was then released on licence in November 2012.
Coulthard - who was known to travel the countryside by bike and to stay at bed and breakfasts, pubs and hotels using a false name - was wanted by Warwickshire Police for recall to prison after breaching the terms of his licence.
As well as North Yorkshire and Humberside, he was wanted in connection with several burglaries in Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, Cumbria and Lancashire.
He today pleaded guilty at Beverley Magistrates' Court to burglary at St Hilda’s Church in Ampleforth, St John the Baptist Church in Cayton, the Salvation Army in Bridlington and St John’s Church in Harpham and a count of theft by walk-in at St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Pickering between February 17 and 23.
He was remanded in custody and will appear at Hull Crown Court in March.
Coulthard was arrested by police in Humberside after a Sunday worshipper at St Andrew’s Church, Ulrome, near Bridlington, noticed a man acting suspiciously inside the church.
The witness contacted police and officers checked nearby churches to ensure all was in order.
As a patrol car approached the church in Skipsea a man fitting the description was arrested, a spokesman for Humberside Police said.
When previously before a court in Swansea in 2003, Coulthard had asked for 502 crimes at churches and chapels to be taken into consideration.
But Lord Justice Laws said despite the record, nine years was too long.
At the Court of Appeal hearing in 2011 a judge 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. Churches in Easingwold, Helmsley, Kirkbymoorside, Ripon, Leyburn, Aysgarth and Settle were last week thought to have been targeted by Coulthard, police said.
Cash was taken from collection boxes or petty cash tins in some cases, but in others the break-in or attempted break-in has resulted in nothing being stolen.