A burglar who left a Barnstaple boutique owner heartbroken after smashing his way in through the front door and raiding the till and two charity boxes, has had his sentence deferred.

Philip Matthews, pictured in 2018.Philip Matthews, pictured in 2018.

Philip Matthews had only been out of prison for a few weeks when he used a brick to demolish the glass door of The Cove Boutique shop in Tuly Street, Barnstaple.

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.

Damage at The Cove Boutique after the break-in. Picture: Chay WestDamage at The Cove Boutique after the break-in. Picture: Chay West

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

Matthews is a heroin addict who had been 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.

Matthews, aged 35, of no fixed abode, admitted burglary and his sentence was deferred for six months by Judge Timothy Rose at Exeter Crown Court.

The Cove Boutique in Barnstaple. Picture: GoogleThe Cove Boutique in Barnstaple. Picture: Google

He told him he would not go straight to jail if he stays out of trouble, works with probation to tackle his drug problems, and saves up £5 a week from his benefits to pay compensation.

He said: “What he did was to wreak absolute havoc on a small, personally run business, and almost destroying it. It was a man’s life and his future and must have been horrific for him,

“Any compensation you pay will not cover the huge loss and the even greater damage.”

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

Damage at The Cove Boutique after the break-in. Picture: Chay WestDamage at The Cove Boutique after the break-in. Picture: Chay West

He 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 stabilised and back on methadone and has a positive report from the probation service who have been supervising him. He has just found new lodgings in Barnstaple and is surviving off food bank parcels until he can claim benefits again.