Belfast Telegraph

Addict who burgled three shops to fund his drug habit jailed

Father-of-five Derek Kirk, who stole from a charity shop, pet store and a pharmacy
Father-of-five Derek Kirk, who stole from a charity shop, pet store and a pharmacy

By Paul Higgins

A burglar who broke into three shops to fund his drug addiction was handed an 11-month prison sentence yesterday.

Antrim Crown Court heard that between May and November 2017, 43-year-old Derek Kirk smashed his way into a Pets at Home, a Barnardo's charity shop and a pharmacy in Ballymena.

Taking each store in turn, prosecuting counsel Tessa Kitson told the court how the Pets at Home manager arrived for work on May 31 to find the front shutters damaged, with glass and tiles strewn over the floor.

She added that a till had been ripped out, with the overall damage costing around £1,200 to fix.

Ms Kitson said police were able to identify Kirk as the intruder from CCTV footage.

Similarly, five months later, in October, the manager of the Barnardo's shop arrived at work to find the front and back doors damaged.

Kirk had also tried to break into the safe without success, although it was "badly damaged" in the process.

Although there was no CCTV footage from this store, Ms Kitson told the court that police uncovered a DNA profile from blood left on a broken window which matched Kirk's.

Imprints from a trainer also matched Kirk's footwear.

The third incident, she told the court, related to a raid on Ballee Pharmacy in November 2017, when Kirk smashed his way in and stole tablets, cosmetics and aftershave.

The defendant was connected to this burglary through a blood-stained drill part left at the scene.

Among the tablets stolen were diazepam and zopiclone, said Ms Kitson.

When police searched Kirk's home a few days later, they uncovered the stolen cosmetics and aftershave, along with a zopiclone tablet.

He was then arrested and interviewed.

Kirk, with an address at the Lodge Road in Coleraine, later pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary with intent to steal, burglary and theft relating to the pharmacy and possessing class C drug zopiclone.

Revealing that the defendant has multiple convictions for raids and drug offences, Ms Kitson said that it was fair to say the latest crimes "were not sophisticated burglaries".

Solicitor Kevin McDonnell, defending, said his father-of-five client "has asked me to apologise to the victims for his actions - he is ashamed".

"They're not victimless crimes," conceded the lawyer.

"He is ashamed that he did break into a charity shop and that's causing him significant embarrassment. His children will be aware that their father went into a charity shop to fund his drug addiction."

Jailing Kirk for 11 months, Judge Kevin Finnegan QC said there was "no alternative" but to send him to prison.

He told him: "I can see from your demeanour that you are not particularly proud of the people you stole from.

"These were not commercial offences... these were decent people trying to run business premises, a charity shop and a pharmacy, and they will have to pay for the time and nuisance you caused."

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