Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Homeless man who squatted in apartment to avoid cold weather is jailed

A homeless man who squatted in an apartment over Christmas to escape the freezing weather has been jailed for six months.

Robert Lewandowski (29) used keys stolen weeks earlier to move into the south Belfast flat once a woman who lived there left for the holiday period.

The Polish national was said to have taken nothing during a four-day stay when he used a stove, watched television and cleaned up after himself.

Lewandowski pleaded guilty to theft and wrongfully taking possession of the property at Tates Avenue between December 24 and 28.

Belfast Magistrates Court heard he had been sleeping in apartment block communal areas after losing his home and job with a recycling charity earlier this year.

He stole the keys after spotting the door to the flat lying open following a party on December 5.

A lawyer for Lewandowski, of no fixed address, said he had left the property exactly as he found it.

He told the court that when the woman and her partner returned to find him there the defendant did not try to leave.

The solicitor said his client was apologetic, but had only gone in on Christmas Eve when temperatures were down to -10C.

“He let himself in to keep out of the cold. For four days he used the TV and stove to heat some food,” he said.

It was claimed that the woman and police were both sympathetic to Lewandowski's plight.

“He didn't take anything, and he had four days and ample opportunity to effectively clean the place out,” the solicitor added.

But District Judge Ken Nixon said his theft and wrongful entry was without justification.

Mr Nixon imposed concurrent six-month jail terms for each of the two offences and also agreed to fix bail pending a planned appeal, although Lewandowski was not released due to having no suitable address.

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