Christmas tree thieves nabbed... by a trail of pine needles
Police followed a trail of pine
needles to nab Grinch-style thieves who stole more than 100
Officers swooped on a van to get to
the root of the crime, after the hapless thieves were caught on
camera at Notcutt Garden Centre in Tonbridge Road, Pembury.
They had smashed two CCTV cameras, but
were unaware covert cameras were still monitoring them during the
raid on November 22.
In a scene straight out of the Special
Branch files, police cars cut off all exits around the site after
security staff reported the incident.
Officers then moved in - catching one
thief attempting to escape, and finding two more hiding in
"These scrooges have shown a complete lack of Christmas spirit… ” – Insp Justin Watts
Officers then followed a
trail of pine needles to the thieves’ van, where 138 Christmas
trees of various sizes, as well as 48 boxes of Christmas lights and
two wheelbarrows were found stacked nearby, ready to be loaded. The
haul was worth almost £7,000.
On Thursday, Ashley James Austin,
21, of Grove Road, Maidstone, 35-year-old Lee Danny Hodgson of
Tonbridge Road, Maidstone and his brother 31-year-old Grant Hodgson
of Court Road, Burham, Rochester all pleaded guilty to theft at
Ashley Austin and Lee Hodgson were
sentenced to a 12-month community order with an unpaid work
commitment. Grant Hodgson was sent to Maidstone Crown Court for
Inspector Justin Watts of Kent Police
comments: "Christmas tree theft is an all-too common occurrence at
this time of year, which is why we work with garden centres and
private sellers alike to offer crime prevention advice and ensure
they have sufficient security to tackle this issue.
"This is a prime example of where
these security measures have worked to helped prevent anything
being stolen and the offenders being caught in the act.
"These scrooges have shown a complete
lack of Christmas spirit, which is why it’s only right that they
will spend their festive season thinking about the consequences of
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