A FORMER soldier who stole £13,500 from a betting shop in the Highland capital has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Karl Jones took the cash from Paddy Power’s Inverness branch – the day after bookmakers cashed-in on a top English Premier League match.
The raid on the shop in the city’s Queensgate led to a huge manhunt.
Jones was finally arrested after a major nine-day search involving officers from the Highlands, Aberdeen, Dundee and Merseyside.
At the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday, judge Lady Rae told the 31-year-old that she had no other option but to send him to prison.
She added: “This was a well planned theft involving a significant amount of money. Given the circumstances of this offence, I have to impose a custodial sentence.”
Jones, of Liverpool, was convicted last month at the High Court in Glasgow of a reduced charge of stealing £13,499, a telephone and keys from the betting shop.
He had originally faced an allegation of assault and robbery – involving the use of a handgun – but those accusations were deleted by the jury.
Yesterday, it also emerged that Jones had a previous conviction for making indecent images of children.
His counsel, advocate Jim Wallace, told the court that his client regretted committing the crime.
He added: “He has expressed remorse and takes full responsibility for his actions.”
No one from the police in Inverness was available to comment yesterday, while Paddy Power declined to say anything about the theft, which happened in March 2014.
In the aftermath of the incident, the nearby Old High Church graveyard was the scene of a detailed police search, involving dog teams.
CCTV pictures were released soon after, showing a hooded figure in Queensgate, who also passed under the Friars Bridge.
Police believed he had changed his clothes twice in an attempt to evade identification.
Jurors at Jones’s trial heard he entered the shop on March 30 last year a minute after it opened – through a staff entrance that had been unlocked.
The court was told the Paddy Power shop had taken in a number of large bets for Manchester City to beat Arsenal on March 29.
But the match ended 1-1, meaning the bookies avoided big payouts to punters.
As a result, more than £13,000 was in the shop’s safe.
Jones walked into the Paddy Power shop just after it opened at 9.30am the next morning.
Employee Kyle Fitzgerald was working that day – and the court heard he was one of Jones closest friends at the time.
Jones was in the betting shop up to eight hours a day, five times a week.
Mr Fitzgerald claimed in evidence that he had forgotten to lock the door Jones used to get into the shop.
Advocate depute Stewart Ronnie, prosecuting, asked him: “It maybe suggested to you that you were part of this incident in which your firm lost £13,500. Is there any truth in that?”
The witness replied: “No.”
The jury also heard that Mr Fitzgerald told police he was unable to identify Jones and initially claimed the thief spoke with a foreign accent.