A conman who travelled through the region making off from hotels without payment and stealing charity boxes has been jailed for 11 months.

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In just three months, Alexander Hewitt, 56, of no fixed abode, three times made off from hotels in Norfolk and north Suffolk without payment, and stole eight charity boxes in the area.

He appeared before Norwich magistrates yesterday where he admitted making off without payment at the Kings Arms pub in Blakeney on December 15 last year.

He also admitted the same offence at the Dormy House Hotel in Cromer four days later. He also pleaded guilty to stealing a charity box from Spar in Hunstanton on December 15.

Prosecutor Denis King said: “Hewitt arrived at the Kings Arms on December 14. He gave his name as Mr Brooks from Bridlington. He booked a room for two nights, stayed overnight, and left without paying the following day. He left a black bag in the room containing clothes.

“Also on December 15, at Spar in Hunstanton, he took a green collection box supporting local charities from the counter, with £70 in it. The store owner noticed the box had disappeared, checked on CCTV, and saw Hewitt.

“And on December 19, he arrived at the Dormy House Hotel at about 5pm, and asked for a room for two nights. He paid a £30 deposit. When he left on December 21, he left a bag containing old paper and leaflets. He had given a different name and address in Glasgow, and they were left £72 out of pocket.

“In interview, Hewitt made full admission and said he left the bags to give the impression he would be back.”

Mr King said that Hewitt had a long history of offending going back 40 years, predominantly for acts of dishonesty. In the last four years he had made off without payment in different parts of the country and in Scotland, he said.

Hewitt also asked for 11 other offences to be taken into account. In chronological order, these started with a making off without payment from the Old Croft Guest House in Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria on December 1 last year, which left them £72 out of pocket.

Hewitt then moved to Norfolk and the court heard that his movements could be traced by listing the offences, which started with the theft of tights and food from Blakeney Post Office on December 14.

He then stole charity boxes from Palmers in Great Yarmouth on December 28, This ‘n’ That in Wells on January 5, and Massingham Butchers in Hoveton on February 2. This was followed by the theft of charity boxes from One Stop Shop in Gorleston on February 4, Mocha in Yarmouth on February 4, Lloyds TSB in Southwold on February 6, and Blakeney Post Office on February 9.

He then stole another charity box from Nationwide in Gorleston on February 17, before making off without payment from Tramway Hotel in Pakefield, near Lowestoft, the same day, leaving them £30 out of pocket.

Heather Lacey, for Hewitt, admitted he had an unenviable record and some of the thefts were distasteful. She said: “He was made homeless when he was living in Windermere. He came to this area because he has a sister in Yarmouth, but she was unable to put him up.

“He was destitute and desperate, so he reverted back to type.”

Afterwards, Helen Dodman, from the East of England Air Ambulance, one of the charities he defrauded, said: “We rely on charitable donations. We receive no direct government funding, and nothing from the National Lottery. To survive we need to raise £6m a year, and as ludicrous as it may seem, a lot of that is raised from charity boxes in shops and pubs.

“It’s upsetting, to say the least, when somebody takes these boxes. The most upsetting part is that people place the money in the boxes, thinking they are giving the money to us.”

John Marcucci, a barman at the Kings Arms in Blakeney, who met Hewitt, said they had changed their trusting, because of such incidents.

He said: “We used to be trusting, but we cannot afford to be any more. It’s upsetting for the whole crew when something like this happens. It’s just a shame that you are taken advantage of.”

North Norfolk Inspector Kersty Brooks said: “This man took advantage of the good nature of local business people and we are pleased to see him facing a custodial sentence. People across north Norfolk are known for their hospitality and welcome, and it’s disappointing that this man was willing to take advantage of that.”

Chairman of the bench, Dick Meadows called the thefts of the charity boxes “despicable”.

Hewitt also admitted being in breach of a 28-day suspended sentence, handed to him by a court in Barrow-in Furness in Cumbria last year, for shop theft.

david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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