An opportunistic thief ransacked the homes of people who had left them unattended to spend lockdown with loved ones elsewhere.
A sheriff branded Lee Duncan’s offences as “deplorable” as he sentenced him to 18 months behind bars.
Duncan, from Banff, admitted to clearing out two separate properties – stealing furniture and carpets from one to kit out his own house – during the crisis.
He even brought his pet dog along to one of the raids, tying him up outside the property as he smashed a window and filled a bin bag full of stolen items.
Fiscal depute Christy Ward told Aberdeen Sheriff Court that one victim, David Robb, had left his home near Huntly secure and locked when he decided to spend lockdown with a family member.
But on July 1 at around 12.30pm, a neighbour noticed a window had been smashed at the property on Main Street, Aberchirder.
She peeked through the garden fence and watched Duncan saunter around the kitchen filling up a bag of goods before he climbed back out of the window, untied his pet and left.
Police eventually caught the brazen thief later that day and found him with two bags full of Mr Robb’s property – including his driving licence and bank card.
The 39-year-old had also stolen watches, aftershave, electrical items and clothing.
Duncan later targeted a home on the same street as him – this time stealing carpets, a double bed, sofas, bedroom units and curtains to give his own house a makeover.
The man who lived there had entrusted a woman to check on the property as he was dealing with “personal issues” elsewhere, the court heard.
She was astounded to find the house almost empty when she looked in on July 12.
The woman had attended the home on Gallowhill Street, Banff, with her daughter to ensure everything was in order but found a smashed window and another left off the latch.
After entering the home, both women were shocked to find that most of the furniture had been stolen.
Duncan helped himself to a double bed, carpets, sofas, bedroom units a coffee tables and some white curtains with a floral design on them.
The pair went back outside when a neighbour came up them and pointed to a house further up the street, stating that the man who lived there had removed all of the furniture and taken it to his house.
When the mother and daughter walked up to the address in question, they could see the stolen curtains hanging in the living room window.
Two days later, police searched the property and recovered the stolen goods.
Duncan, whose address was given as HMP Grampian, pled guilty to both of the thefts via video link and admitted a charge of fraud after using a stolen bank card to buy £45 worth of alcohol on July 11.
Defence agent Sam Milligan said his client had battled “a number of demons, including drugs and alcohol”.
He added that Duncan had struggled with a Xanax addiction and the crimes had taken place over a three-week period when he was “very much despairing of the life he was leading”.
“Indeed, he was aware of what was going to happen and he has accepted that. In fact, it was preferable to the life he was leading,” Mr Milligan said.
Sheriff William Summers said: “There are deplorable offences – one charge involved taking advantage of someone who had moved out during lockdown and another literally involved clearing out someone’s house.”
Sheriff Summers sentenced Duncan to 18 months in prison.