Felixstowe slot machine thief who stole nearly £800 broke leg while fleeing police, court told

Man stole from a slot machine - stock photo

Man stole from a slot machine - stock photo

A slot machine thief who stole nearly £800 from a Felixstowe amusement arcade broke his leg while trying to flee from police by jumping a fence, a court heard.

Thomas Wheatcroft had leapt over a fence at the town’s railway station and injured himself when he landed from the eight foot drop.

The 35-year-old who appeared via a video link from HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes - was jailed for 26 weeks by Ipswich magistrates after admitting theft.

Prosecutor Tess Man said the offence occurred at 5pm on July 1. when the manager of Family Amusements in Sea Road had just begun his shift.

He was making his usual inspection, walking around, and noticed a man at the Slotto gambling machine who he did not recognise as being a regular customer.

After offering Wheatcroft a drink, the manager noticed another man pull up a chair and sit at the same machine.

The manager became suspicious as Wheatcroft appeared to be fiddling with something at the side of the machine.

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Wheatcroft then repeatedly took a number of pound coins from the pay-out tray and handed them to the second man who walked out.

The second man returned a short time later.

The court heard the man went back to the car and placed items inside it on more than one occasion.

He then switched with Wheatcroft and began playing the machine, handing coins to the defendant who then walked outside to the car.

Police were called, but just before they arrived the second man left, leaving £34 in the machine.

The manager then found a number of £2 coins in places in the machine where they should not be.

Magistrates were told using an implement was a common way to divert coins into the payout tray.

In total £793 in pound coins were taken, while £46 in £2 coins were found in random places in the machine where efforts to divert them had failed.

Wheatcroft’s accomplice was found by police in a car with approximately £500 in coins.

Wheatcroft was discovered on an Ipswich-bound train at Felixstowe railway station and gave his name as Steve King from Elland Road, Ipswich.

He got off the train and sat in a shelter. However, he suddenly ran off and jumped a fence with an eight foot drop on the other side.

A police officer heard the sound of coins falling as Wheatcroft tried to run off while clearly injured.

When arrested he had £82.20 in coins on him and £120 in cash, along with a leaflet with names and numbers.

Wheatcroft, of Portsmouth, has served previous prison sentences for thefts and was jailed in Northampton for six months for a similar matter in September, the court heard.

His accomplice was given a suspended prison sentence at an earlier hearing for the Felixstowe theft.

In addition to jailing him for 26 weeks magistrates ordered him to pay £85 costs and £115 to the victims’ fund.