Brave Warwick vicar tried to stop burglars

Rev Rob Budd, Vicar at Heathcote Parish Church. Photo from Warwick Gates Community Church website.
Rev Rob Budd, Vicar at Heathcote Parish Church. Photo from Warwick Gates Community Church website.

A Warwick vicar showed ‘great public-spiritedness’ when he realised a house near to the one he was visiting was being broken into, and went to investigate.

Rev Rob Budd, vicar at Heathcote Parish Church (formerly known as Warwick Gates Community Church) tried to confront the intruders as they left, but burglar John Shanley and his accomplice got past him and made their escape after a brief foot-chase.

He was arrested after a police officer recognised him from footage of the incident a neighbour had recorded on her phone, but was bailed and went on to commit a further offence.

Shanley (31) of Blythe Road, Coventry, was jailed for a total of three years and four months after pleading guilty at Warwick Crown Court to the burglary and aggravated vehicle taking.

Prosecutor Gary Venturi said that in July 2016 a woman received a text from a friend to tell her the police were at her home in Heathcote.

She returned to find her home had been broken into, and jewellery, watches and personal items had been stolen.

Part of the burglary had been witnessed by Rev Rob Budd, who was visiting someone nearby and heard the alarm go off at the house, so went to investigate.

“He saw someone moving around inside, and tried to get to the back of the property to confront them,” said Mr Venturi.

Two men emerged from the house, and his arm was knocked away as he reached out to try to stop one of them. The vicar and another man, Mr Pickersgill, gave chase as the intruders, one of them carrying a bin bag with their haul in it, ran away, but they escaped. Fortunately a woman had recorded part of the incident on her phone, and an officer recognised Shanley, who was on probation at the time, and he later handed himself in after learning he was wanted.

He claimed he was in the area at the time looking for work on a nearby industrial estate and had nothing to do with the burglary, and was granted bail.

Then on February 21 this year plain-clothed officers in an unmarked car spotted an Alfa Romeo Giulietta which was ‘of interest’ parked in Mercers Meadow, Keresley End, facing a Nissan Qashqai which was parked awkwardly across an entryway.

They parked behind the Nissan, but as they made their way towards the two vehicles, Shanley got into it and locked the doors before reversing. He drove backwards and forwards into the police car and the Giulietta, almost hitting one of the officers as he did so, to force a gap large enough for him to get out of, and then drove off before abandoning the Nissan nearby and escaping on foot.

When he was later arrested Shanley, who had a string of convictions for offences including burglary and dangerous driving, said the Nissan, which he realised had been stolen, had been given to him by a friend – and he made off because he knew he was wanted by the police.

Richard McConaghy, defending, said while serving his last sentence Shanley had taken a rail track course, and following his release he was put onto a further course and promised there would be a job at the end of it.

“But there was no job forthcoming, and met with the disappointment of that, he turned back to his offending ways,” said Mr McConaghy.

Shanley was jailed for two years and eight months for the burglary, with a further eight months for the aggravated vehicle taking, and was banned from driving for 32 months.

Recorder Christopher Donnellan QC told him: “The burglary took place in broad daylight, and had been observed in action because Rev Budd spotted something untoward happening.

“He looked in and saw someone moving around inside the property, and he and Mr Pickersgill and others showed great public-spiritedness.”