Anger as pair who stayed in woman’s house spared jail

Portsmouth Crown Court
Portsmouth Crown Court
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A GRIEVING daughter has told of her upset after a man and woman who stole from her dead mother’s home walked free from court.

Brigette Cowan is furious that Lewis Walker and Catherine Knowler, who went into her late mother’s house without permission, were given sentences that meant they were freed.

Their sentences do not in anyway reflect the distress that they have caused myself and my two boys since this happened

Briegette Cowan

The court was told the pair were in the house in Castle Street, Portchester, while looking for somewhere to sleep ‘while intoxicated’.

Brigette’s friend, who was looking after the house, confronted topless Walker inside the home on July 2.

Walker and Knowler were arrested after sentimental items belonging to Brigette’s late mother 82-year-old Joy Dumper, were stolen.

Speaking to The News, Brigette said: ‘Their sentences do not in anyway reflect the distress that they have caused me and my two boys since this happened, nor the heartache of the sentimental items that were stolen, and the destruction they left behind.

‘Their sentence does not reassure the public that justice has been done.’

At Portsmouth Crown Court Knowler, 27, of Ham Lane Gosport, was given a community order and Walker, 24, of Nelson Road, Buckland, Portsmouth, was given a four-month jail term.

As he had spent 200 days on remand it meant he was likely to be freed after being taken back to prison from court.

Two oil paintings, one of a Spitfire and one of a Hurricane plane, were among Second World War memorabilia taken.

Sentencing, judge Roger Hetherington said: ‘This related to theft of items of sentimental value and some cash which were in an unoccupied house belonging to a woman who had died.

‘Her daughter arranged for the sale of the property, and had someone to look after it, and the contents were still remaining in the property.

‘The two of you, no doubt affected by substances that you’d consumed and wanting somewhere on a short term basis, found yourselves in the premises.’

Matchbox vehicles, books, collectible plates together with about £50 from money boxes were also stolen.

The judge handed Walker a four-month sentence for the theft and one month 
concurrent for the criminal damage. Knowler received a 12-month community order with 25 days of rehabilitation activities.

She breached a previous suspended sentence and was fined £100 for this.

David Jenkins, defending Walker, said: ‘The defendant does express regret and acknowledged how distressing it would have been for the neighbour who discovered him in the property.

‘The motivation was to find somewhere to sleep. It was an opportunistic offence marred by intoxification.’

The court heard as Walker has spent 200 days on remand he was likely to be freed after he was sentenced.

Knowler and Walker faced a burglary charge but this was dropped after they pleaded guilty to one count each of theft and damage on the first day of their trial.