A burglar who broke into a priest’s house and stole his wallet while the clergyman cooked Sunday lunch has been jailed for 14 months.
Nicholas Armstrong, 42, climbed in through an open window at St Gregory’s Church presbytery in Blackpool Road, Preston, and helped himself to the wallet containing £200 cash.
Fr Ted Gannon, 69, caught a fleeting glimpse of Armstrong - who he had previously tried to help - as he escaped through the study window.
But the burglar, of Lancaster Road North, had already helped himself to Fr Gannon’s wallet while the priest was answering the door.
Two months earlier Armstrong was put on a curfew when he admitted stealing cash from a charity box at the Harris Museum.
Preston Crown Court heard Armstrong had a troubled childhood and had turned to drugs to escape from the trauma. He had previously looked to Fr Gannon for support with his personal difficulties.
The priest heard a noise and went to look what was going on. He saw you quickly shut the window and run off.
As he was led to the cells to begin his prison sentence, he said: “I’m sorry. I’m very sorry I’ve let drugs get me into a position where I’ve committed such a bad crime.”
He wrote a letter to the priest apologising for his actions - which the court heard were motivated by his addiction.
On Sunday May 8, Fr Gannon was in the kitchen at the presbytery when he heard a knock at the front door.
But when he went to answer it there was no-one there.
As Fr Gannon made his way back to the kitchen he saw Armstrong closing the study window behind him, and shouted at him.
Several parishioners spotted Armstrong fleeing the house, and his fingerprints were found on the window frame.
He was arrested two days later and immediately confessed to the burglary.
However the wallet and cash was never recovered.
Judge Ian Leeming, sentencing, said: “I gather you knew Fr Gannon and he had helped you or offered to help you on occasions.
“Maybe your intention was to visit, I don’t know.
“This is not a case that involves a significant amount of planning.
“You saw the open window and whatever your original intention was, your intention became to steal.
“You went into the study and you stole the priest’s wallet and £200.
“The priest heard a noise and went to look what was going on. He saw you quickly shut the window and run off.
“A letter has been placed before the court apologising and wishing to apologise to the priest. That has gone astray but I accept you sent it. You are genuinely remorseful.”
He handed Armstrong a 14-month prison sentence with seven days to run concurrently for possession of a small amount of heroin and cannabis found at his home when he was arrested.