Jailed: Burglar who raided East Finchley RSPCA charity shop and stole champagne and computers from West Hampstead restaurant Locanda
PUBLISHED: 17:36 28 March 2019 | UPDATED: 18:40 29 March 2019
A burglar who raided a charity shop in East Finchley as part of a spree of break-ins at restaurants and businesses in north west London, has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Judge Lana Wood sentenced Pierre Wassef at Harrow Crown Court this afternoon after he pleaded guilty to the five burglaries in 2018. He also admitted breaching a community behaviour order made after two break-ins earlier in the same year.
In mitigation, defence barrister Pieter Briegel told the court the 38-year-old had been attacked over an £80,000 debt he was stealing to repay, and has had long-standing problems with drugs.
The court heard how on the night of October 19 and 20 last year, Wassef had used a paving slab to smash the window of the RSPCA charity shop in the High Road.
He then stole £680.45 in cash from the safe and a box of worming tablets worth £190.73. He also caused £1,176 of damage, including smashing up the CCTV camera’s hard drive and damage to the safe and the window pane at the front of the shop.
Wassef was identified by officers from blood on the fridge door handle.
Less than a month later he broke into Locanda, in West End Lane. He was caught forcing a window on CCTV shortly after 6.30am on November 16. He then left again shortly after and returned with an accomplice, according to prosecution barrister George Heimler.
The man then pushed a wheelie-bin in front of the Italian restaurant to obscure what was happening, and kept watch.
Meanwhile Wassef stole 10 bottles of champagne to the value of £2,800, two Apple laptops worth £2,280, a £250 iPad, tablets for Deliveroo and Uber Eats worth £540, and £600 Bluetooth speakers from the eatery’s kitchen.
While he was burgling the restaurant also he smashed 30 champagne flutes, which had been valued at £480.
In another burglary, Wassef, of Wykeham Hill, Wembley, stole £8, a box of Snickers bars worth the same, and a till drawer from the Piccolo restaurant in Kilburn High Road on December 3.
He also kept watch while someone stole £100 from Tura health and beauty salon in the same street on December 29 – after his accomplice smashed its front window using a bag with concrete in it.
CCTV footage showed him and a woman breaking in to a tailoring business in Walm Lane, Willesden, in August last year, but nothing was taken.
Wassef, wearing a dark jumper over a grey shirt and jeans, looked on as Mr Heimler said he had been arrested by officers in Swiss Cottage in January, who were looking for somebody else – but recognised Wassef and knew he was wanted in connection with the crimes.
During her sentencing, Judge Wood referred to Wassef’s initial sentence last year after two burglaries.
He admitted breaking in to the Scope charity shop in West Hampstead in June, and Tonic salon in Willesden Lane in May. At the time she gave him a community behaviour order.
Defending Wassef, Mr Briegel said he has been undergoing therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which he suffers from after a spell in an Egyptian prison more than a decade ago. He was jailed for 25 years in October 2007 for drug trafficking offences, but released during a change of regime in the north African country at the turn of the decade.
At the time he said he had been pressured into confessing his guilt.
Judge Wood also read letters from Wassef expressing his remorse, and another from the mother of his three children, saying how his behaviour had changed since his arrest early this year.
He also had previous convictions in Britain for burglary, theft and conspiracy to burgle a domestic house.
Wassef was jailed for two-and-a-half years for the Locanda break-in, and was sentenced to two months each for the RSPCA, Walm Lane, and two Kilburn High Road burglaries. The sentences will run concurrently.
Sentencing him, Judge Wood said: “You have a large criminal history dating back to 1999 for theft. You have been before the courts on a regular basis for some time.
“This sentence is because of the overall criminality involved in all the offences and the seriousness of them. Especially for a man of your record, committing them when you’re subject to a community order.”