Victim's fury as historic flags and coping stones stolen from Billinge house

Martin Ryan was jailed for a total of 42 weeks
Martin Ryan was jailed for a total of 42 weeks

A proud householder is so angry about a thief who stole historic masonry from his home that he has threatened to expose him on social media if the items are not returned.

The culprit Martin Ryan was quickly tracked down after stealing the property from outside the home of John Howard and two neighbours in Billinge but not all the items have been recovered.

Ryan appeared in court for sentencing and retired teacher Mr Howard read his impact statement to the judge telling how he felt “violated” by the damage caused to his front wall by the removal of most of the coping stones.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that the targeted homes on Carr Mill Road, Billinge, were mid-Victorian and Mr Howard, a father-of-three, said that the York paving stones and coping stones are “part of the architectural heritage of the locality.”

He has tracked down some replacement coping stones, though not of the same quality, and he faces a £1,000 bill for their purchase and installation.

CCTV footage of Ryan unsuccessfully trying to steal a paving stone, taking eight coping stones and then returning to collect them in a trailer which he had already laden with paving stones from the other two homes, was played to the court.

Mr Howard said that Ryan had proved himself to be “a liar and a thief” and said if the property was not recovered he will put the footage in the public domain. He described the items as “unique” and said if Ryan had any conscience he would reveal where the property is.

He added that he hoped the defendant is ashamed of himself but because of his “chosen profession” he believed he would have complete disregard for the impact of his behaviour.

“If we don’t recover our property I will publish the CCTV in the public domain.”

However after a lunchtime adjournment defence barrister Paul Becker said that Ryan has now revealed that he had dumped the missing items in a field in Platt Bridge, Wigan and the details will be passed to the CPS for investigations to be made.

The 33-year-old, of Wyre Avenue, Platt Bridge, admitted three thefts, one attempted theft and disqualified driving on the day he had been due to face trial.

Mr Howard is one of several people in the area to suffer paving stone thefts in recent months, one of them being Wigan Jazz Festival organiser Ian Darrington, although there is nothing to suggest that Ryan was involved in those crimes.

Michael Scholes, prosecuting, told how Ryan struck at the home of Mr Howard at 3.50am on December 3, 2017 and he played the incriminating CCTV footage which showed his activities.

The paving stones stolen from the two other homes were worth about £800.

Ryan was identified from the footage by a police officer and the distinctive VW Borra car was seen outside Ryan’s home and some of the items were recovered. He denied being the driver pointing out that he had been banned from the roads just over two weeks earlier.

Paul Becker, defending, said that Ryan, who has numerous previous convictions, is remorseful and his partner, who has four children, is expecting their next child in four weeks time.

“He committed the offences because of financial problems…

“He resorted to crime which is wholly unacceptable,” he said.

The judge, Recorder Richard Leiper, QC, jailed Ryan for a total of 42 weeks after pointing out his poor record of compliance with non-custodial sentences and he had been driving very soon after being disqualified.

He also said that he had gone out that night to commit the offences taking with him a trailer to load the heavy items into.

“The following morning the three householders were left to find out exactly what damage you had done to their property.”