The Cove burglar spared jail sentence

Damage caused to The Cove in Barnstaple after the burglary in February 2020

Damage caused to The Cove in Barnstaple after the burglary in February 2020 - Credit: Chay West

A serial burglar who caused havoc by smashing his way into The Cove boutique in Barnstaple has been given a suspended jail sentence. 

Phillip Matthews was branded as a scumbag by the owner of the shop after he raided the till and stole two charity boxes. 

He had only been out of prison for a few weeks when he used a brick to demolish the glass door of the shop in Tuly Street. 

He left the floor covered in glass and ransacked shelves before making off with more than £1,000 worth of cash and goods. 

He also made off with two collection tins which contained donations for Parkinson’s UK and the Dogs’ Trust. 

Owner Chay West was contacted by friends on social media who told him that his shop was wide open. 

He shared images of the damage on the shop’s Facebook page and described the intruder as a scumbag. 

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Matthews was a heroin addict at the time and has a record for similar break-ins. He was jailed in 2018 for a series of almost identical raids in which he targeted charity collection boxes in small shops in Barnstaple. 

He has convictions for 92 offences including 19 for burglaries of homes and shops. 

Phillip Matthews was spared jail for his burglary of The Cove in Barnstaple

Phillip Matthews was spared jail for his burglary of The Cove in Barnstaple - Credit: DCC

Matthews, aged 36, of no fixed abode, admitted burglary and was jailed for eight months, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay £300 compensation by Judge Timothy Rose at Exeter Crown Court. 

He told him he was not sending him straight to jail because he has succeeded in addressing his drug problem and staying out of trouble during a six month deferment of sentence. 

Nick Lewin, prosecuting, told an earlier hearing that Matthews broke the glass front of the shop on the night of February 1 this year and ransacked it, stealing money, an iPad, charity boxes and stock worth more than £1,000. 

He also took two charity tins and was traced by DNA from the discarded and empty till tray. 

Mr West made a victim impact which said: “I am heartbroken. He has showed total disregard for my work for the charities and my fundraising. 

“I work alone and the shop is my life. I support my family and work hard every day. I feel angry about what happened.” 

Martin Pearce, defending, said the offence happened at a low point in Matthews life. He had been on a methadone script after leaving jail but relapsed into heroin use. 

He is now back on methadone and has been living at a YMCA hostel in Taunton while working with the probation service who have been supervising him. 

He said: “The probation service continue to speak highly about him. He has saved up £100 towards compensation. He is clearly remorseful and is turning his life around.” 

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