A SNEAK thief hid in a busy department store until it closed – then smashed his way out with pockets full of loot.
Dale Elliott, who claimed he got inspiration from the conman comedy film Bad Santa, hid in a wardrobe in the household goods section at Fenwick, Newcastle, until he was sure all customers and staff had left.
The 20-year-old, from South Shields, who carried out the raid just a week before Christmas last year, then strolled around the empty store – helping himself to electrical items he could easily sell on to raise cash to buy presents for his loved ones.
Elliott, who covered his face with a scarf when he came out of his hiding place, but did not conceal his features before he entered the shop, was easily collared due to the amount of CCTV covering the landmark city store, which sells a selection of high-quality goods.
Prosecutor Emma Dowling told Newcastle Crown Court Elliott had gone to the shop in the early evening on December 17 last year.
Miss Dowling said: “He made a decision to hide in a large cupboard in the household goods department.
“He stayed in there, listening to tannoys telling people to leave the store.
“He satisfied himself the store was empty, that all the staff had left and then proceeded to take a number of items, predominantly from the electrical department.”
The court heard Elliott, who used a hammer to smash his way out, left with iPhone covers, memory sticks and other computer equipment.
He was arrested in the new year and still had a small amount of the stolen property in his home.
He told police he “needed money with Christmas coming up” and said he got the cash-making idea from the film.
Elliott, of St Cuthbert’s Avenue, South Shields, admitted theft.
He also pleaded guilty to unrelated charges of having a bladed article and common assault after holding a knife to a man’s throat during a street confrontation in February.
After the incident, the terrified victim told police: “I was scared I would be slashed or stabbed.”
Brian Hegarty, defending, said Elliott did not set out to deliberately mimic the movie when he went into Fenwick that day.
But he added: “He will say, while he got his inspiration from having watched the film, the position is he ultimately got the idea having gone into Fenwick as a lawful customer and perusing the shop in a normal way.
“It was, perhaps, one of the worst ideas imaginable, there are CCTV cameras everywhere.
“He did not thoroughly plan it.”
Mr Hegarty said Elliott, who was “trying to act the big man” during the knife incident, had a troubled upbringing, spent time in care and is actually quite vulnerable.
Judge Paul Sloan jailed Elliott for 12 months.
The judge told him: “A few minutes before the store closed you hid in a wardrobe and then emerged when the coast was clear, once the premises was shut.
“There was clearly a degree of premeditation, given what you then went on to do.”