Loot from North Devon photo studio raid found in Taunton

Phillip Matthews

Phillip Matthews - Credit: DC Police

A serial burglar who was caught with loot from a £21,000 raid on a North Devon photographic studio has been given a chance to tackle his drug addiction rather than go to jail.

Phillip Matthews was caught with some of the items from the burglary near Braunton when police raided his home in Taunton last year.

Rucksacks, a camera bag, video camera, and data cards stolen in raid were found by police but around £20,000 of kit including a drone were never recovered.

Photographer and filmmaker Simon Cotter was left £3,000 out of pocket because his insurance did not cover the full cost of the stolen equipment.

Matthews has a long history of burgling shops and businesses but there was no evidence he had carried out the raid.

He is currently on a suspended sentence for a burglary at the Cove fashion shop in Barnstaple on February 1 last year in which he stole cash and two charity tins.

He was under investigation for that offence when he was caught with the items stolen from a unit in Velator Way, Braunton on May 16, 2020.

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Matthews, aged 36, of Priory Avenue, Taunton, admitted handling stolen good and his sentence was adjourned by Judge Timothy Rose at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him he would not go straight to jail if he carries on working with the probation service and is deemed suitable for a drug rehabilitation course.

He noted that Matthews is not in breach of the eight-month suspended sentence for the Cove shop burglary because it was imposed early this year, eight months after this offence.

Mr Greg Richardson, prosecuting, said police found several items from the Braunton raid when they arrested Matthews for the Cove boutique burglary at his home in Taunton on May 23, 2020.

He denied being involved in the burglary itself but said he knew that the items were stolen. They represented only a small fraction of the £21,242 value of the stolen kit.

Mr Martin Pearce, defending, said Matthews has stayed out of trouble since this offence and now has a new partner and a stable home in Taunton.

He said the housing manager had written him a reference and his supervisors at the probation service considered it would undo the progress he has made if he were sent to jail.

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