Gotcha! Blackburn poppy tin thief caught

A ‘DESPICABLE’ thief has been caught and is facing jail – thanks to an appeal in the Lancashire Telegraph.

Carl Anthony Mason, 29, stole Poppy Appeal tins in Blackburn to fund his heroin addiction, a court heard.

He struck a total of seven times during his spree in the run up to and on Armistice Day.

Mason, of Cresswell Avenue, Preston, was caught after staff from two of the premises he targeted recognised him in CCTV footage printed in the Lancashire Telegraph.

He pleaded guilty at Blackburn Magistrates’ Court to the theft of Poppy Appeal tins from Santander, in King William Street, and Boots, in Great Bolton Street.

He also admitted attempting to steal a Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) Sooty box from the Lockside Tavern, in Bolton Road.

Magistrates were also asked to consider four further offences, involving the theft of Poppy Appeal tins from; Gala Bingo, in Ainsworth Street; Blockbuster, in Great Bolton Street; Halifax, in King William Street; and Boots, in Fishergate, Preston, on August 4.

He was remanded in custody to appear before the Bench on Wednesday.

Philippa White, prosecuting, said: “Money is placed in the Poppy Appeal tins in good faith.

“Members of the public expect it to go to those injured or inconvenienced by war or membership in the Armed Forces.

“Clearly the offences committed were despicable. It is harsh, but that is the only word I can think of to describe them.”

The court was told Mason moved into Jay’s Bed and Breakfast, in Bolton Road, after being released from prison, where he had served a 12-week term for similar offences.

On Sunday November 6, he went into the nearby Lockside Tavern and asked if he could sit at the bar while he waited for his father.

But moments later he was thrown out by a regular customer, in full view of landlady Christine Ainsworth, after he was caught trying to steal an RNIB Sooty box.

He stole a Poppy Appeal tin containing £42 from Santander, in King William Street, in Blackburn town centre, on Wednesday November 9.

And on Friday November 11 – Armistice Day – Mason went into Boots, in Great Bolton Street, where he spoke to staff about finding a drug support team in the area, before stealing yet another Poppy Appeal tin, the court heard.

Later that day, the pharmacist who had spoken to Mason recognised him in the CCTV images in the Lancashire Telegraph.

Mrs Ainsworth, from the Lockside Tavern, also identified him as the same man who had been ejected from her pub after watching the clip online.

Ms White said: “It would appear that when Mrs Ainsworth looked on the website, she recognised the man as the same one who went into the Lockside Tavern on November 6.

“The pharmacist saw the Lancashire Telegraph, with the picture of the man stealing the poppy appeal tin from Santander and recognised him as the guy he had spoken to the previous morning.

“He was certain it was the same man he had spoken to about drug treatment.”

When arrested in Preston on Friday, Mason told admitted to the thefts at Santander and Boots, as well as the attempted theft at the Lockside Tavern.

Defending, Scott Parker, said his client’s offences had been motivated entirely by his heroin addiction.

He said: “He is thoroughly ashamed of himself and was very upset when I spoke to him in custody this morning.

“He said ‘I’m sorry for all the Poppy Appeal tins, I didn’t realise how much it meant.’”

Lancashire Telegraph | Preston