A 28-year-old man has pleaded guilty to burglary after smashing the window of a Selsey High Street jewellers with a hammer and making off with three gold necklaces worth £2,500.
A police helicopter was dispatched to join in the search for Benjamin Hunter following the incident on October 16.
Hunter, of no fixed address, appeared at Worthing Magistrates Court on Tuesday where he pleaded guilty to one count of burglary other than dwelling.
Martina Sherlock, prosecuting, said that at 9.40am police were called about ‘a burglary in process’ at MSJ Jewellers in the High Street, Selsey.
Officers were called by Mr Watts from Dale’s Barbers, who had been cutting a customer’s hair when he saw a man standing outside the jewellers with a hoodie tied over his head.
“He commented to the customer, ‘what’s this guy up to’,” Ms Sherlock said.
They then saw the man smash the glass with a hammer, reach in the window and grab some items before running off towards the Co-Op car park, she said.
Mr Watts ran out of the barber shop and pursued the man until he caught up with him, Ms Sherlock said.
There was an exchange of words, but as the man was still holding the hammer, Mr Watts did not try to apprehend him and the man ran off towards Croft Road.
Police joined in the search and a police helicopter was sent out, according to Ms Sherlock.
The man was spotted in a rear garden by a police officer who attempted to follow him, discovering a grey pair of jogging bottoms he had left behind on the way.
Soon afterwards, the man was detained by police, who found a hammer and a hoodie in the drawstring bag he was wearing, Ms Sherlock said.
He was wearing four gold necklaces, two of which he claimed belonged to him – though he later admitted three belonged to MSJ.
The owner confirmed this, adding that he had been in the premises at the time of the offence.
He said he heard ‘a loud bang’ and had looked up to see someone smashing the window, before he gave chase to the thief.
In a police interview, Hunter said he had been at a friend’s house the night before the incident.
He admitted to police that he had run up to the window, smashed it and then run off.
“He went on to say that his life was falling apart,” Ms Sherlock said.
The stolen goods were recovered, she said, but the theft and damage had caused commercial loss to the victim of around £3,500.
Ms Sherlock said: “It does appear to be an offence committed on impulse. There was limited intrusion into the property.”
Adrian Butt, defending, said it was a ‘very bizarre set of circumstances’.
He said that Hunter had had a bottle of gin to drink and had taken some cocaine before the incident.
Hunter was depressed because his work as a self-employed plasterer had dried up and his partner had split up with him, putting him ‘in a tailspin’, Mr Butt said.
Just ten days later, Hunter was the victim of a hit and run, Mr Butt said, sustaining ‘quite serious injuries’ including a broken nose, broken eye socket, a severed eyelid and broken foot.
No one has yet been apprehended for the incident, which left Hunter in hospital for some time, he said.
Mr Butt said Hunter had approached his doctor to get advice about his mental health and use of alcohol and drugs.
He was due to have a full assessment on Friday and Mr Butt said the ‘wheels are in motion’ for him to get a diagnosis.
“Clearly there are some issues with regard to mental health,” he said.
The case was adjourned for four weeks so that a medical report could be prepared.
Hunter will appear at Crawley Magistrates Court on Wednesday, December 4.