Anonymous academic helps catch burglar

A don, porters and builders all took part in the chase of a burglar who had stolen a laptop out of a student’s room on Monday.

The porters were alerted that a laptop had been stolen through the window of a student’s room at St Hugh’s College, and a fellow of the college promptly chased the burglar in an attempt to recover the laptop. Arron Gardner, 26, of Oxford, had broken through the window and taken the laptop before attempting to escape.

The don, who has chosen to remain anonymous, told the Oxford Mail: “A gentleman in a van saw him and came into the porters’ lodge while I was in there and said: ‘Do you know someone’s nicked a laptop from one of the student’s rooms? He’s outside.’

“So we went out and he had a bag with a laptop sticking out of it. The porter challenged him and he immediately started to run away, and I ran after him.”

The don only lost Gardner after he jumped into a garden on Northmoor Road, having been pursued down St Margaret’s Road, Banbury Road and Bardwell. Decorator Tony Thomas, 52, and electrician Marc Partlett, 34, who were renovating a property on Northmoor Rd, then caught sight of him.

Thomas, alerted by the suspicious behaviour of Gardner, pursued and tackled him to the ground. Helped by Partlett, the pair called the police. Partlett said: “He was pleading with us, saying he would go back to jail.”

Thomas, who described by his colleague as “an old footballer and fit for his age”, added: “He was the one who stopped him and got him under control.”

The academic joined the scene, and the burglar was arrested by the police at 2.15. The next day he pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary and three of handling stolen goods at Oxford Crown Court, and  was sentenced to 34 months in jail.

The other charge related to an event on 10th October last year at Tudor Close, Iffley. Gardner used a cane to fish through the letterbox of a house and lift the catch from the inside. He stole a handbag and its contents, but was disturbed and ran out of the house. The contents of the handbag were found abandoned nearby.

Det Con Charlie Ellis, of the Oxford Local CID Burglary Team, told the Oxfordshire Guardian: “Gardner deserves to be in prison for the crimes he has committed and I am very pleased with the sentence passed by Judge King. It shows the kind of person we were dealing with who had the nerve to break into someone’s home the day before he was due to stand trial for other offences.

“Following sentencing, Judge King expressed his gratitude, which I would also like to echo, towards the members of the public that were responsible for detaining Gardner following the burglary that he committed on Monday.

“They became suspicious by Gardner’s behaviour and rather than ignoring that suspicion they acted on it. Without this quick thinking there is a possibility that Gardner would have got away with the crime. They have more than fulfilled a civic duty which they should be very proud of.”

Andy Wilson, St Hugh’s JCR vice-President, added: “We’re all very proud of the fellow and porters who chased the burglar down.”

Ellie Wilson, a second-year student at St. Hugh’s, said that theft was not uncommon at the college: “My laptop, along with my friend’s laptop, phone, watch cash and booze, was stolen in 0th week of Michaelmas while we were in the pub getting away from the new freshers.”

She said that after at least one other theft there had been ideas such as a “zoned fob” proposition, although she added that this “has been ruffling feathers”.