Star footballer from Eastern Europe jailed after raiding homes across the north of Scotland

© DC ThomsonMantas Varanauskas being escorted to the prison van from Elgin Sheriff Court.
Mantas Varanauskas being escorted to the prison van from Elgin Sheriff Court.

A Lithuanian football star has been jailed after ransacking homes across the north of Scotland when his wages dwindled.

Mantas Varanauskas played for Stumbras Kaunas in his home country’s top league as recently as 2016, but now has a criminal record across Europe – blaming a “notorious” club owner for sparking his money problems.

Yesterday, the 33-year-old was jailed for two years at Elgin Sheriff Court with his countryman Eduardas Rymer, 38, after they admitted raiding homes in Elgin, Nairn, Duffus and Lhanbryde.

The men began smashing windows to tear through properties just days after arriving in Scotland in January.

Elgin Sheriff Court heard they wore high-visibility vests as they checked out potential properties, then ransacked them before making off with rare bottles of alcohol, laptops, mobile phones and jewellery.

Varanauskas’ defence solicitor Grant Daglish said the sight of his friends earning more from a life of crime than he did on the pitch sparked actions.

He said: “Mr Varanauskas played for the premier team in Lithuania. It’s fair to say the wages didn’t go along with the stereotype.

“The owner of the club is rather notorious and he noticed his wages were being lowered every year.

“He was still playing football in 2016 when his last conviction caught up with him in Finland, which he served a prison sentence for.

“When he learned his partner was expecting a child he became worried about money and simply went back to his old ways and found himself in Scotland.”

The men used a rock to break into a window on Hamilton Crescent in Elgin between January 25 and January 29 – stealing a rare bottle of Lochan Ora whisky liqueur that is no longer produced as well as a Rolex watch, laptop and other jewellery.

A wooden jewellery box was taken from a home on Sutors Way in Nairn on January 29, where blood was also left on the blinds and windowsill of where the thieves had broken through the living room window.

A games console, jewellery and about £1,270 in cash was taken from a home in Kirkland Hill in Lhanbryde on January 31, and a day later a tablet and laptop as well as three bottles of champagne, four bottles of gin and six bottles of wine were stolen from St Peters Road in Duffus.

Fiscal Kevin Corrins revealed that police investigating the break-ins identified a silver Volkswagen Golf the pair were using to travel across the region, and captured them on CCTV acting suspiciously outside the homes that were raided.

He said: “The car was located and the men were seen entering the car at about 8.40am on February 6. It was noted that Rymer was wearing a high-visibility vest and there was another similar one in the car.”

Items the duo had stolen were subsequently found in a spare room they had been renting at Milnefield Avenue in Elgin as well as a bin outside.

Rymer’s defence agent Michael Chapman said: “My client arrived in Scotland in mid-January and thereafter started this course of conduct with his co-accused.

“It’s clear from his previous convictions in Germany that he knew the consequences of what he was doing.”

Both men, who are of no fixed abode, were jailed after pleading guilty to four charges of theft by housebreaking.