A WOMAN has told of the sickening moment she realised a hidden camera was filming customers in a coffee shop toilet.
Tricia Pearce, 40, spotted that the camera – disguised as a plug socket – had been planted in the unisex toilet at the Costa coffee shop in London Road, Waterlooville, where she is manager.
Her quick thinking helped catch voyeur Andrew Dowden-Smith, who had set the hidden camera up.
She became suspicious of Dowden-Smith, a regular customer, as he went in and out of the toilets.
She and her colleagues watched him in an attempt to try to work out what he was up to.
‘He came into the toilet so we had to wait for him to come out,’ said Miss Pearce.
‘He came out and left and we went back in. But as he came out of the toilet he banged shoulders with me. He then left the shop.’
Miss Pearce then discovered the plug socket in the toilet had been tampered with. ‘I asked another member of staff to remember his face,’ she added. ‘He was a regular anyway. It’s absolutely disgusting. It’s a bit sickening.’
Miss Pearce ran to the nearby police station to report him.
Workers at the shop were urged to look out for a man who came in and ordered a black Americano coffee with hazelnut syrup – former Cosham firefighter Dowden-Smith’s drink of choice.
A week later the 41-year-old returned to the shop and ordered his favourite coffee. A worker called police and he was arrested at the scene in front of his wife and child.
Dowden-Smith, of Bevan Road, Waterlooville, initially said in interview that he bought the camera to take snaps of his family on holiday, but realised it could be used covertly and decided to try it out.
He said he installed the camera once at Costa in Waterlooville and twice at another Costa shop in High Street, Cosham. He said there was no sexual motive but later admitted two counts of voyeurism for sexual gratification between October 1 and October 29 last year.
Dowden-Smith resigned from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service after 17 years of service when the allegations came to light. He was sentenced to a three-year community order under supervision at Portsmouth Crown Court. He must take part in a sex offenders group work programme, do 200 hours of unpaid work and pay £650 costs. He has also had to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register.
Miss Pearce added: ‘At the end of the day the customers and my staff – their well-being is my most important aim, so it would have been nice to have seen him go to prison. Unfortunately he hasn’t. All I can do is support my customers.’
Judge Roger Hetherington, sentencing, said: ‘It is an offence which will amaze any member of the public but will also disgust them, and it would have been very distressing to any member of the public who ever came to know that they had been photographed in any way.’
He added: ‘It’s an absolutely disgusting offence.