Belfast Telegraph

Shoplifter's £20,000 haul of stolen goods is donated to charities... and thief helps to pick the worthy causes

By Chris Kilpatrick

Vulnerable children in sheltered housing accommodation were treated to new toys and clothes after police handed out a £20,000 haul of stolen goods to charities - chosen by the thief.

T-shirts, shoes, handbags, toiletries and household appliances were distributed among good causes after a search of a shoplifter's home uncovered the vast collection.

The culprit helped to select which charities she believed should benefit from the unusual gifts as part of her rehabilitation.

They included a hospice, Marie Curie Cancer Care, St Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army, and Women's Aid, with staff from each collecting their share of the retrieved items from police in Ballymena.

Most of the items were in pristine condition, having not been used or worn.

Neighbourhood warden Billy Hamilton became suspicious of a woman in the town and reported her to police.

She was found to be carrying goods she had stolen from a number of shops and was subsequently arrested.

A follow-up search of her home uncovered £20,000 worth of stolen items, many of which were still in packaging or with a price tag attached.

She pleaded guilty to the theft offences in court and a disposal order was made by the judge.

The order said the goods were to be returned to the retailers targeted or given to local charities.

Officers set about trying to return what they could to various shops in the Co Antrim town. With a huge amount of stock left over, the chosen charities were given the brand new goods.

PSNI Inspector Alison Ferguson, who headed up the investigation, said: "Many independent retailers are relieved at the return of their stock, particularly given the harsh economic climate they operate in.

"The charities, furthermore, are delighted to see their second-hand shops brimming with new stock."

Insp Ferguson said the children in Women's Aid facilities were ecstatic with their new toys.

"They received items of practical use to service users, such as underwear, towels, shampoo and shower gel as well as children's toys," she said.

"These goods will be used to make the lives of domestic abuse victims a little more comfortable as they face crisis times.

"The toys will be well received by the children of domestic abuse victims who often arrive at the refuge without toys and personal items."

Last month it was revealed that rare plants were to be grown in equipment that once formed part of a cannabis factory discovered in Co Down.

The PSNI usually destroys equipment used to make drugs, but following a raid on premises in Newtownards, officers donated the valuable heat lamps and hydroponic systems they seized to gardeners at the National Trust's Mount Stewart property.

The hydroponic system will be used to propagate exotic plants at one of the biggest National Trust plant collections in the UK.

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"These goods will be used to make the lives of domestic abuse victims a little more comfortable as they face crisis times. The toys will be well received by the children of domestic abuse victims who often arrive at the refuge without toys and personal items."

PSNI Inspector Alison Ferguson

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