The week's court news: from cuddly toy burglars to Eddie Izzard 'poofter' abuse verdict

The week's court news: cuddly toy distractions theft, Eddie Izzard harasser, and the man facing a life sentence for killing a disabled person with a golf club

The Old Bailey

Friday, December 2, 2016

In the latest instalment, Court News and talkRADIO round up the latest stories from UK courts over the past week.

From a woman using a cuddly toy to commit theft from a man who claimed comedian Eddie Izzard was going to hell​, we have combed the length and breadth of the country for the weirdest, most riveting stories. 

For more developments from the UK's legal system, go to the Court News website.

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Shoplifter handed £1,000 fine

A serial shoplifter who used a large cuddly toy to distract staff while she stole exclusive jewellery is back on the streets after receiving a £1,000 fine.

American housewife Jutta Curatolo targeted high-end stores like Harvey Nichols, Liberty, and Dolce & Gabbana in a series of 'pre-meditated and pre-planned' thefts. She would ask to inspect the merchandise and then vanish while the shop assistant's back was turned.

She stole a £500 pearl tiara and a pearl necklace worth £800 from Sloane Square's Basia Zarzycka last October.

She was at Dolce & Gabbana's Sloane Street store on November 17 in 2015 to grab a £2,450 pattern ring with blue stone.The prosecutor, Zahid Hussain, said she placed a large soft toy on the counter and asked staff about a ring, then left with the ring still on her hand. In regard to this, Curatolo denied the toy was a distraction tactic, claiming she couldn’t not buy the bear after seeing it at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.

She then took a Marco Bicego silver and gold ring, worth £2,260, from Harvey Nichols towards the end of November 2015, followed by a gold bangle with 23 grey diamonds worth £4,200 from Liberty on January 7 this year.

Zahid Hussain, prosecuting, said: 'This defendant, who sits in the dock awaiting her fate, has targeted high-end stores and high-value items of jewellery.

'She enters and engaged the sales consultant in conversation with the intention of completing a legitimate financial transaction.

'As the staff members' backs are turned, she leaves with these high-value items of jewellery. Her criminality is captured on CCTV.'

She has since returned all of the stolen items to police, with the exception of the ring from Harvey Nichols which she paid for in full. She pled guilty at the first opportunity in her trial.

Curatolo, originally from San Francisco, claims she has been getting receiving treatment for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Magistrates were told Curatolo has been sober for 259 days and is attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings daily and a private psychotherapist weekly.

Curatolo admitted four counts of theft. In addition to her fine, she must pay a £30 victim surcharge and £85 costs.

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Builder faces jail for affair blackmail

A builder who attempted to blackmail a married client he was having an affair with is facing jail.

Liam Braithwaite, 24, had originally been hired to carry out building and decorating work at the woman's home in Canary Wharf.

Snaresbrook Crown Court heard that he soon became involved with the woman, engaging in a passionate relationship behind her ill husband’s back.

When the affair ended after he finished work on the house, Braithwaite left a number of texts and voicemails which threatened to reveal it to her husband and son unless she transferred him £2,000.

The women went to the police with the messages. Braithwaite vanished and it took a year for police to track him down.

After an initial denial, Braithwaite pled guilty to a single charge of blackmail on the first day of trial yesterday.

The judge, Mr Recorder Brendan Finucane, QC, said: "Although I am ordering a pre-sentence report, I make it clear that it will not be me who passes sentence on January 4 when you are to return."

"What I wish to make clear as well it that although you are on bail, you should be under no illusion that you face the very real prospect of a custodial sentence."

Braithwaite admitted blackmail and was bailed ahead of sentence on the January 4 2017.

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Killer of disabled man facing life sentence for golf club murder

A killer who used a golf club to bludgeon a disabled man to death is facing a life sentence after his own father told how he confessed to the murder.

Reece Jones, 25, hit 55-year-old David McKenna over the head nine times with a four iron in a frenzied attack, the strength of which snapped the club. In an attempt to cover his tracks, he set fire to McKenna’s ground floor flat in Barnet

The disabled man’s body was found hours later when neighbours spotted smoke gushing out of the doorway and called the authorities.

Jones was linked to the murder by DNA found on three cigarette butts, but was able to prove he did not own the Nike trainers that left prints at the scene. His father, Gary Jones, secured the conviction when he was called to give evidence in court.

He said how Jones confessed that he’d “done something wrong. I've killed someone."

To counter it, Jones insisted he had nothing to do with the killing and his father was wrong, but a jury found him guilty by a majority of 11 to one after four hours and 50 minutes' deliberation.

Jones is due to be sentenced.

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Eddie Izzard’s harasser is given suspended sentence

A bully who called Eddie Izzard a "f***ing poofter" after he refused to give him a ride in his 1958 Volkswagen Beetle is facing jail.

24-year-old Jamie Penny threatened to "do" the celebrity's house after Izzard refused his request to give him and a friend a lift in his classic convertible outside a pub in central London.

A month later Penny saw the stand-up again, and subjected him to homophobic abuse.

Mr Izzard told the court how he was accosted while putting bags in his car near his home in Pimlico.

He said: "There were two males, a slimmer one, and a heavier set one I now know to be Jamie Penny.

"The slimmer one leant in my face. He was right in my face.

"It felt very aggressive and he said: 'You should take me for a ride in your car.'

"I replied: 'I will never take you for a ride in this car.'

The celebrity was then warned: “We are going to do your house when you're away, we are going to do your house.”

Jamie Penny was let off with a suspended jail sentence after calling the comedian a 'f***ing poofter.'

Penny yelled "Eddie Izzard is going to burn in hell' as he left the court.

Mr Izzard had said in a victim impact statement: “I would like to say that I do not scare easily and I refuse to be easily scared.

“But this has made me very wary of who is on the street and who may be next to me. This has made me wary when outside on the street and wondering who may be next to me.

“This situation could have affected me in a number of other ways but I refuse to let myself be affected by this sad individual."

Penny was found guilty of two counts of using threatening and abusive words or behaviour after a trial at Hammersmith Magistrates' Court last week.

He was handed a 20-week custodial sentence suspended for 12 months on Wednesday.