Duo admit string of thefts from rural primary schools

Two men have pleaded guilty to committing a string of break-ins at village schools in Suffolk and north Essex.

Among those targeted by the pair were schools in Kersey, Monks Eleigh and Bulmer.

Christopher Kerr, 26, of Halstead Road, Frinton, and Francis Wilding, 22, of Broadway, Jaywick, appeared at Ipswich Crown Court last week when they pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit burglary.

The offences occurred over a nine-month period between August 2012 and May last year and involved a total of more than 30 schools from where laptops and other computer equipment was stolen.

In the raid on Kersey Primary School in April last year, more than £20,000 of laptops and computer tablets were stolen.

Raiders broke into the school on Cherry Hill by smashing a window, before fleeing with 26 laptops and eight tablets.

Speaking after the burglary, Detective Inspector Nick Power said: “If you have been offered computing equipment and you are not sure where it came from, or if you know of anyone who may be connected to these crimes, we would urge you to come forward.

“We are continuing to work with schools in the county to encourage them to do all they can to ensure the security of their buildings and equipment.”

The raid at Kersey came just four weeks after Monks Eleigh Primary School had been targeted.

On this occasion, 14 laptops were stolen when burglars broke into the school on a Saturday night, with the alarm alerting people at the nearby village hall.

Kerr and Wilding were arrested as part of a special operation codenamed Justine which was launched by Suffolk Police to tackle the issue of computer thefts from schools, many of them in rural locations.

Both Kerr and Wilding have been granted conditional bail until they return to court on July 11 for sentencing.

A third man arrested in connection with the same investigation has yet to enter a plea to a charge of conspiracy to burgle.