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Good Samaritan taxi driver returns student’s laptop containing course work stolen by ‘pie-eyed’ burglar

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A taxi driver who unwittingly acted as a getaway driver following a burglary on a student house returned the victim’s laptop after the burglar made off from his cab without paying the fare.

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An intoxicated Dean Price broke into the shared student house in the dead of night and stole a computer containing course work along with a number of “designer jumpers” while his victim was out.

Swansea Crown Court heard when the victim returned home and found an untidy search had been made of is room he initially thought his housemates were playing a prank on him – until an email arrived from the Good Samaritan cabbie.

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Megan Jones, prosecuting, said the burglary took place some time on the night of November 11 into the early hours of November 12, 2020, after the victim had gone out with friends. When the student returned to his house on Hanover Street in Swansea he found the wardrobe in his room was open, clothes hangers were strewn about on the floor, a parcel addressed to him had been opened, and his laptop and a number of jumpers were missing. He initially though he had been the victim of some kind of prank by housemates but later that morning when he went to ring his mum he found an email from somebody saying he thought he had his computer.

The court heard it later emerged that 40-year-old Price had entered the property through the unlocked front door and stolen the items before he and two other people called for a taxi from a nearby street. During the journey the Yellow Cabs driver was offered the laptop but, suspicious about what was going on, he declined. Eventually, after a number of stops and stars along the way, only Price was left in the cab – when he was asked for the £15 fare he made off without paying, leaving the laptop on the back seat. The driver recovered the device, checked it, and emailed who he thought was its rightful owner.

In an impact which was read to court the student said the experience of being burgled had really shaken him up.

Some of the stolen jumpers – described in court as “designer jumpers” – were subsequently found after police inquiries led detectives to a house in Port Talbot belonging to a woman called Gemma Owen. Owen has previously been jailed for handling stolen goods in relation to the clothes and for a vicious assault she carried out with her partner which saw them kicking, punching and butting a woman outside their flat leaving her bruised and battered and missing two teeth.

Dean David Price, of Joseph Davies Close, Waun Wen, Swansea, had previously pleaded guilty to burglary and to making off without paying when he appeared in the dock for sentencing. He has 55 previous convictions for 177 offences including two for burglary and 43 for theft matters. The court heard that since committing the Hanover Street burglary in November 2020 he has served two prison sentences – one of 18 weeks and one of six months – for other, unrelated offences. In 2017 Price was sentenced to 15 months in prison for assault occasioning actual bodily harm and the attempted theft of a car after he punched a dad to the floor in Morriston and tried to steal his car – with the victim’s screaming children still sat in back of the vehicle.

Jon Tarrant, for Price, said it was accepted there was “an awful lot of offending” on the defendant’s record, but said they were largely theft and public order matters rather than burglaries.

Judge Geraint Walters told Price he had clearly by “pie-eyed” when he broke into the shared house, and said stealing a student’s laptop was a particularly cruel thing to do as it could mean the loss of a large amount of course work. He said mercifully on this occasion the computer had been returned by the “public spirited” Yellow Cabs driver, so the student had not been deprived of his work. The judge described Price’s criminal record and “dreadful” and said the sentencing guidelines which suggested a community order may be appropriate were “somewhat generous”.

With a 20 per cent discount for his guilty pleas Price was sentenced to 12 months in prison comprising 12 months for the burglary and one month for making off, the sentences to run concurrently. The defendant will serve up to half that period in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community.

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