Grantham court: Alleged gum thieves bite off more than they can chew

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Two men appeared in custody charged with stealing £1,500 worth of chewing gum and other items from a Grantham supermarket following a failed attempt to take £900 worth from a Stamford store.

Ionut Dumitru Nae, aged 31, from Burnaby Road, Coventry pleaded guilty to both offences which were denied by co-defendant Constantin Franku, aged 25, of the same address.

Prosecutor Jim Clare said that on November 21 two men were first seen filling a trolley at the Stamford branch of Morrisons with multipacks of chewing gum and some other miscellaneous items.

This was reported to a member of security staff and while one man was caught and the trolley containing items valued at £900 was recovered, the other ran away into a waiting Mercedes outside with the registration number given to police.

A short time later at Grantham’s ASDA, two men were again seen filling a trolley with around 500 packs of chewing gum as well as other products including cases of champagne.

On this occasion they succeeded in leaving the store with the goods, but the Mercedes was stopped soon after on Empingham Road in Stamford and Nae found to be driving while Franku was said to be in the passenger seat.

Police then recovered £1,500 worth of products from the vehicle.

Mr Clare pointed out that Nae had no previous convictions, while Franku had been convicted of similar offences across the country and had also breached his bail conditions and a curfew not to leave home between 7pm and 7am.

Defending Franku, Bill Fraser highlighted that his client had pleaded not guilty to both counts and that apart from this one breach when he was arrested at around 10pm, Franku had complied with his curfew.

Representing Nae, Chris Pye-Smith referred to the previously clean record and asked for credit for the early guilty pleas.

Magistrates decided to remand Franku in custody until his next scheduled appearence at Grantham court on December 1, whereas Nae will return on December 22 after a pre-sentence report.

He was released on bail with the condition to report daily at a police station in Coventry.