“Gang of four that burgled places of worship in Leicester have been sent to custody”
(Courtesy of Leicester Mercury)
“Four burglars who dubbed themselves the “Mosquebusters” repeatedly raided charity boxes in a series of 17 break-ins at places of worship around the city.
The nickname was adapted from the 1984 cult movie, Ghostbusters, and they had redesigned the film’s logo – used on some of their text messages.
The damage caused and charity cash lost collectively amounted to £31,663.
All four, two adults and two juveniles, each received custodial sentences at Leicester Crown Court yesterday, having pleaded guilty to conspiring to enter mosques with intent to steal, between February 2 and March 31 this year.
Luke Wright (27), of Thomasson Road, Leicester, was jailed for 13 months.
Thomas McMurray (31), of Lonsdale Street, Leicester, received a 12 month jail sentence.
Two 16-year-old boys, from Leicester, each received eight month detention and training sentences.
Victoria Rose, prosecuting, said that 16 mosques and one Hindu temple were burgled, sometimes more than once, with a forced entry, ransacking with the intention of raiding charity boxes.
Sums ranged in value from £10 to nearly £9,000.
Sentencing, Judge Michael Pert QC said: “You don’t have to be clever to know that stealing from charity boxes is despicable.
“People put money in to help others who are worse off than themselves.
“People who put money in are often not rich and to steal that money meant to help others is very, very low.
“While breaking into religious institutions in order to do that makes it worse, I don’t regard it as religiously motivated in any way – it’s bad enough as it is.”
The court heard that mobile phone messages between the defendants showed there had been a joint enterprise conspiracy.
Wright further admitted burgling another mosque stealing money and papers and attempting to burgle another mosque on the same day.
Jerry Hayes, mitigating for Wright, said: “He wants to apologise unreservedly to the hurt he’s caused the Muslim community.
“He’s been assaulted in prison because of the nature of the offences.”
Carl Gaskell, for McMurray, said: “He hates himself for what he did.
“Although he wasn’t thinking clearly at the time he now realises the immense effect upon the victims of the wider community involved and expresses genuine remorse.”
Defence counsel for the two juveniles, who cannot be named because of a court order, said they both came from good homes and had been “recruited” by their older co-accused.
All four were issued with a five year Criminal Anti-Social Behaviour order (CRASBO) banning them from all religious premises without permission. They will also have to register their mobile phones with the police and not to associate with each other.
Det Sgt Helen Nurse, who led the investigation, said: “The incidents caused great concern within the community and it was particularly disappointing that money donated to the mosques for charity was stolen.”
Suleman Nagdi, spokesman from the Federation of Muslim Organisations (FMO) said “We would like to thank the police for their part in not only catching the culprits but also for working closely with the community in order to promote safety and vigilance.
“The burglaries affected the community deeply; causing heightened tension and also bewilderment as to why anyone would target a place of worship to steal money intended for the desperate and needy.
“We continue to urge all places of worship to remain vigilant and adopt preventative measures to safeguard against senseless acts of criminality such as burglaries.”
The premises broken into were the Oadby and Wigston Muslim Association Mosque, Sandhurst Street, Oadby (losses and damage totalling £5,420); The Peace Centre, Thurncourt Road, Leicester (nothing taken); Masjid an Noor Mosque, Berners Street (£4,100); Usmani Mosque, St Saviours Road (£5,010); Jamia Masjid-E-Bilat, Evington Valley Road (£8,831); Masjid Al-Falah, Keythorpe Street (£1,800); Taybah Community and Education Centre, St Saviours Road (£350); Masjid at Taqwa Mosque, Harewood Street, off Humberstone Road (£1,200); Shreeji Dham Haveli Temple, Melton Road, (£1,150); Jame Mosque, Baggrave Street (£10); Masjid Abu Hurrayrah (Hidayah Centre) Mosque, Haynes Road (£100); Masjid Muadh Ibn Jabal Mosque, Gamel Road (£1,062); Masjid E Aisha Mosque & Madrasa E Talimul Islam, Cork Street (no amount).
Other places were: G.N. Euro Ltd, St Saviours Road, (£200) and Knighton Community and Education Centre, Keble Road (£2,430).”