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Cleaner who stole from hotel caught when manager laid a trap

PUBLISHED: 14:15 24 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:37 24 January 2018

George Hotel, off Newmarket Road, Norwich. Photo: Andy Darnell

George Hotel, off Newmarket Road, Norwich. Photo: Andy Darnell

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A hotel cleaner with a “compulsion” for stealing was caught red-handed by the manager who laid a trap for him after suspicions were raised.

James Downing, 34, admitted stealing gingham check curtains, cushions, rolls of wallpaper and a purse from the George Hotel in Norwich while working there as a cleaner between August and November last year.

Prosecuting at Norwich Magistrates Court, Lucy Miller said items had been going missing from various rooms in the hotel, on Arlington Lane, since the summer.

“There appeared to be a correlation between the rooms from which they were stolen 
and the rooms being cleaned by the defendant,” she said. “Before he started they had not suffered loss of any kind. The manager became so suspicious she decided to place a purse with a small amount of money and some keys in a room.”

Housekeeping staff were asked to keep a watchful eye on the room while Downing cleaned it, and when it was checked the purse had been removed.

“On being discovered with the purse, Mr Downing claimed it belonged to his girlfriend,” said Mrs Miller.

“Officers visited Mr Downing at his home address. He became disruptive during the course of their investigation and he was arrested. A search was carried out and in what appeared to be a child’s bedroom were the curtains. The defendant returned two further rolls of wallpaper to police during the course of the subsequent interview, and compensation is sought for eight outstanding rolls of wallpaper.”

In interview, Downing said he had not stolen in years. He said he had Tourette’s syndrome and kleptomania.

“He said he always needed to be touching things so he needed to steal to feed his compulsion,” added Mrs Miller.

“He did not show any remorse to the officers and he did not see stealing from the business as wrong. He said the room had been vacated so the items left behind belonged to him.”

Downing, appearing unrepresented, said he had been “silly” and claimed he had been owed unpaid wages by the hotel.

“I am not condoning my stealing,” he added.

Downing, of Millers Lane, was ordered to pay an £80 fine, a victim surcharge of £30, compensation of £160 and costs of £85.

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