Man who stole knickers from washing lines in St Albans caught after underwear used as bait

The knicker nicker appeared at St Albans Magistrates Court

The knicker nicker appeared at St Albans Magistrates Court - Credit: Archant

Hanging underwear on a communal washing line in St Albans acted as bait to a thief who stole more than £700 worth of ladies knickers, a court has heard.

A resident of a block of flats in Malvern Close, St Albans, took the unusual step in June to try and snare the thief after items of underwear started to go missing in February.

And less than an hour later the resident saw a grey-haired white man acting suspiciously and took photos of him which led to his arrest several days later.

Appearing at St Albans Magistrates’ Court last week, Roy Jones, 55, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of stealing knickers and bras belonging to eight women over a five-month period.

Told that he needed to address his “compulsion”, he was ordered to attend 30 days of rehabilitation as well as being given a 12-month community order including 100 hours of unpaid work.

Ms Yasmin Malik, prosecuting, told the court that when the thefts became more frequent, the resident of the flats decided to hang some knickers on the line as a lure.

She went on: “Forty minutes later [the victim] saw a grey-haired white man acting suspiciously in the area and took photographs of him.

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“She then ran downstairs and phoned the police. She shouted to the man but he ran away and managed to jump over a wooden fence and escape.”

A few days later, police officers in the area spotted someone matching the man’s description and watched as he entered the flats’ communal garden.

Ms Malik told the court that officers had seen Jones, of Ellenbrook Crescent, Hatfield, “surveying the drying area”, before they arrested him.

At an earlier hearing, the court heard that during his arrest, Jones had told police officers: “My life is going to be over. My wife is going to take off.”

During a subsequent search of Jones’s house, police found a large bin bag full of ladies underwear hidden in his attic.

But Dominique Mitchell-O’Neill, defending, told the court that Jones’s compulsion had only recently become a problem – because he used to purchase ladies underwear – and that there were many mitigating circumstances surrounding the offences.

He said: “Roy has had mental health issue for 14 years. He lost his mother three years ago and that was very distressing to him as he was unable to find closure. In addition to that, his father has a brain tumour.

“Because of those contextual issues he had been feeling very low and isolated.”

Mr Mitchell-O’Neill said that Jones had recognised his compulsion and sought help to deal with it.

Magistrates told Jones he needed to address his “underlying issues” and that he had “made good progress in [his] own life” but his compulsion was something only he could sort out.

Jones was also ordered to pay court costs and compensation totalling £710.

Magistrates said that claims from one victim, who had said that she had £425 worth of expensive lingerie stolen, were “excessive”, and instead awarded her just £100.

One elderly victim told the Herts Ad after the hearing: “In the circumstances, given what was put [before the court], the magistrate was quite fair, but I think he could’ve been a bit sterner.”