Southsea burglar caught by News appeal

Paul Nelson outside Portsmouth Crown Court at an earlier hearing

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A BURGLAR who stole post and wrote himself cheques totalling more than £2,000 was snared – thanks to an appeal in The News.

Unemployed Anthony Cowan, 27, entered the communal areas of three blocks of flats and stole mail.

The dad-of-one, who is soon to become a father again, fled Garage Apartments in Albert Road, Southsea, with mail from two flats while another man acted as lookout.

Cowan was caught after a CCTV image of the other man was printed in The News.

Martyn Booth, prosecuting, said: ‘As a result of that media appeal the lookout male was identified and this defendant was identified as being a known associate of the lookout.

‘Through him, Cowan was identified as being the second male, the one who had gone to the mail box, opened it and taken the mail from it.’

The appeal helped uncover another victim, from Worthing Apartments in South Parade, Southsea, who recognised the man in the CCTV and called police.

Checks revealed three cheque cards, a cheque book, credit card and a cheque from the Inland Revenue had all been stolen from his address.

Police contacted Lloyds TSB who confirmed a cheque for £850 had been paid from the victim’s cheque book into Cowan’s account.

Cowan had tried to pay himself a further £1,300 but Lloyds was able to stop the cheque in time.

Handwriting analysis later revealed Cowan had written the cheques.

Police arrested Cowan at his home where they discovered various stolen mail. He denied any wrongdoing and was later bailed.

Forensics experts later discovered a fingerprint lifted from a mailbox at Garage Apartments matched his.

The find also linked him to a burglary at Lennox Mansions in Clarence Parade, Southsea, where a bank statement and Royal Mail delivery card were stolen.

Cowan had collected the victim’s post from a delivery office.

Evidence linked to the third burglary, including the bank statement and delivery card, were found at his home. Portsmouth Crown Court heard Cowan claim through his defence barrister that his accomplice got him involved in the offences.

The man whose image was caught on CCTV was arrested but has not been charged in connection with the incidents.

Cowan, of Albert Grove, Southsea, who has 20 previous convictions for 34 offences, admitted three burglaries and two counts of fraud last November while subject to a six-month suspended sentence for handling stolen goods.

Judge Sarah Munro QC sentenced Cowan to nine months in jail.

A Hampshire Constabulary spokesman said: ‘We would like to thank the community for its assistance with our investigation to bring Anthony Cowan to justice. Police received information from members of the public as a result of an appeal published in The News. This coverage and subsequent calls helped officers to identify the suspect.’