Hotel owner ‘rugby tackled’ intruder to detain him

North Devon Magistrates Court, Barnstaple

North Devon Magistrates Court, Barnstaple - Credit: Archant

The 41-year-old failed to escape after being caught ‘red handed’ trespassing on the property by the hotel owner.

A ‘BALACLAVA’ clad man who broke into a hotel in Ilfracombe was rugby tackled to the floor by the owner, North Devon Magistrates’ Court heard on Friday.

Paul Crack, of Flat 1, 140 High Street, Ilfracombe, indicated a guilty plea to burglary with intent to steal from the Grosvenor Hotel in Ilfracombe on January 22.

Owner Raynor Wells had come back to the hotel, which was closed for the winter season, at around 7pm to do admin work, when he heard a noise in the reception area.

He opened the door to find 41-year-old Crack stood with a ‘balaclava’ over his face and a screwdriver in his hand.

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The court heard Crack claimed he was let in by two other men who ‘set him up’ and fled the scene when they believed police were on their way.

Lyndsey Baker, prosecuting, said when Mr Wells had challenged Crack as to what he was doing, he began talking to him.

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“He appeared to be trying to distract him and escape,” she said.

“Mr Wells got him in a headlock and held him there for two minutes until he stopped struggling.

“He allowed him to get up so he could phone 999, but Mr Crack pulled the phone cord out of the wall.”

Mr Wells pushed Crack away, reconnected the phone and called the police again.

He then went to lead him into the foyer to wait for officers to arrive, but Crack made his escape, running through the ballroom towards an exit.

Acting fast, Mr Wells ran after him and rugby tackled him to the ground, detaining him until police arrived at the scene.

In interview, Crack said he was one of three people who entered the property, and that he was asked to be the lookout.

He claimed the screwdriver was not his and the ‘balaclava’ was in fact a beanie hat with two eye holes cut into it which he wore when out fishing.

Police searched the hotel but found no one else at the scene.

Tony Dart, defending, said: “Nothing was taken and there was only very minor damage where entry was gained.

“He regrets that he was there and accepts it was a foolish thing to do.”

The court heard Crack has 31 previous convictions, including several burglary offences.

Magistrates adjourned sentencing for a probation report to be prepared and released Crack on conditional bail.

Conditions included a curfew to reside inside Flat 1, 140 High Street from 6pm-6am; not to contact Raynor Wells and not to attend the Grosvenor Hotel.

Crack will appear again at North Devon Magistrates’ Court on Friday, February 22.

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