Purse thief back in jail

MATTHEW Craig Thompson surrendered almost three years after stealing cash from the handbags of middle-aged women at Albury churches.

He turned himself in to police in October, only 16 days after being released in Victoria at the end of a 15-month sentence for theft and assaulting police.

Yesterday Thompson, 27, was back in jail, sentenced in Albury Local Court to three months and ordered to repay more than $6000.

He embarked on his crime spree between November 5, 2009 and January 10, 2010.

In one incident outlined in court yesterday, Thompson went to St David’s Uniting Church in Olive Street, Albury, and asked one of the women at a craft meeting for a drink.

She gave him a cup of tea but when she returned to her meeting, Thompson sat next to her handbag and took $70 from a purse.

Six weeks later, he went to St Matthew’s Anglican Church, and while a group of people were praying at the front, Thompson stole a handbag from a rear pew.

It also cost the victim $2000 to replace her car keys and house keys.

The court was told a further four thefts were carried out at churches, while others were at a tennis club, the Albury swimming pool, Albury Croquet Club and the CWA hall in Kiewa Street.

Thompson’s targets at the swimming pool were unattended bags from which he stole small amounts of money and mobile phones, five of which were sold for $20 each.

He later said the phones were offered to people “like him” who would not report him to police.

Thompson pleaded guilty to 27 charges, 19 involving theft and the rest related to disposing of stolen goods and obtaining money by deception.

Magistrate Tony Murray was told Thompson spent 15 months in jail in Victoria on charges of theft and assaulting police before his release in October, after which he surrendered over the Albury thefts.