I’m not the cynical type, and would never wish jail time on anyone but the most deplorable of criminals as the holidays approach. But I do like to believe that, sometimes, things do happen for a reason. With that said, 21 year old Tyler Burns of East Nowra, who told authorities he was homeless upon his arrest at the pokies, will be spending the next 18 months in a warm bed, behind bars.
As reported by the Illawarra Mercury this morning, one week ago on November 13, young Mr. Burns committed a most discouraging crime, preying on the trust and appreciation of a man in a mobility scooter. That day, he approached the 65 year old handicapped man at the rear of Spotlight Nowra and offered to help him into his vehicle.
The elderly gentleman was grateful for the proffered assistance, right up until the thief showed his true colors. Instead of helping the man, he reached into a bag in the basket of the scooter and snatched his wallet, which contained a Visa card, $400 in cash and personal identification papers.
Yesterday, Magistrate Graham Blewitt heard the case in Nowra Local Court, where video surveillance showed the culprit fleeing on foot through Sturgiss Newsagency. He continued across Junction Street and then ran down Morrison’s Arcade before escaping the sightline of the cameras beyond the car park at Egans Lane.
Police were able to positively identify the 21 year old man as the suspect because CCTV cameras had also captured him earlier that day in the Nowra CBD, wearing the same clothing.
Following his arrest, Tyler Burns confessed to the crime, telling police in an interview that he was homeless, and that, “You have to do what I do to get by.”
However, the purchase records from the Visa card he stole did not depict the necessity of his crime. Mr. Burns spent $262 in three separate locations, purchasing $182 worth of cigarettes from two different stores, and another $80 on alcohol.
It’s not known what he did with the $400 in cash. The wallet was void of currency when it was later found in the cistern of a toilet in the men’s room of the Bridge Hotel, less than two blocks from the scene of the crime.
Authorities caught up to Mr. Burns on Wednesday at the nearby Australian Hotel, where he was found playing pokies at the pub – which might explain where the notes went.
At his hearing yesterday, the young man pled guilty to all four charges against him – one count of theft from a person, and three counts of using deception to obtain property. It took only 5 minutes, from 2.20pm to 2.25pm, for Magistrate Blewitt to hand down sentencing in the case. The wallet thief will spend the next 18 months in jail, with no option of parole before the first 12 months is served.
If his story is true, and he is indeed homeless, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for the young man, despite his woeful behaviour. Then again, his own statements—“You have to do what I do to get by”—insinuate that this type of conduct is a natural way of life for him. We can only hope that, being so young, he is able to learn from his mistakes and make a better life for himself when it’s over.