A heartless burglar left his five-year-old autistic neighbour devastated after drunkenly stealing his beloved puppy.
Karen Higgins, from Liverpool, said 12-week-old French bulldog Stitch is her son Tyler’s ‘sidekick’, and that he was left gutted when he was stolen by a callous thief.
As she desperately searched for the pet after her house was broken into, neighbour Johnathan Walters feigned ignorance and gave a three word response, telling her her “that’s heavy that”.
Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard that Ms Higgins had been at her home in Walton on May 19 when she heard one of their two dogs barking furiously.
She looked out of the window to see her rear gate “wide open”, then went downstairs and discovered the back door ajar with little Stitch missing, the Liverpool Echo reports.
It is thought that the burglar had climbed through the kitchen window in order to gain entry to their home before stealing the beloved pet.
A witness then saw Waters, who has no recollection of the incident due to being “heavily intoxicated”, at the end of the road carrying a dog.
He claimed that Stitch was his friend’s dog, and that his name was Rocco.
The young pup was recovered safely and reunited with his rightful owners the following day.
Ms Higgins previously said that Stitch had been “stuck to Tyler like glue” since coming into their lives. She said: “I had just locked up and put the dogs in the kitchen before heading upstairs to bed to watch the soaps.
“I heard this sound of dishes crashing and a big smash, which was a candle my eldest got me for Mother’s Day. I ran straight to the window and saw the back fence open.
“I would never do that because it’s always bolted for the dogs. I ran into the street because I was too scared to go into the kitchen.
“I was screaming ‘somebody is in my house’, but nobody was listening. In the end, somebody came over and went into the kitchen for me and said my dog was gone and the window was forced open.”
Ms Higgins said that Waters then came out into street and said “that’s heavy that” after she told him what had happened. He had seen Stitch for the first time the morning previous.
She added: “Stitch was just playing in the street and he came over and said ‘oh he’s boss isn’t he’, and was asking questions about him. I couldn’t believe it. Since he came into the house he’s made a bond with this boy. They’re inseparable.
“I can’t even describe this bond. He was staying at his dad’s, and every time I FaceTime him he says ‘where’s the baby?’ That’s what he calls Stitch.”
The 31-year-old, from Anfield, has three previous convictions for burglary in 2008, 2013 and 2015 as well as two for theft in 2020 and 2021.
During mitigation, defence lawyer Joe Ely told the court that his client had turned to “alcohol misuse” after the “traumatic loss of his brother” three years ago. He said that the defendant had found his body following his suicide.
He suggested that sending Waters to jail would not help rehabilitate him, but instead that he should get help for his mental health and alcohol misuse problems.
He added: “If his needs are addressed, it would significantly reduce the the risk of reoffending and Mr Waters coming back before the courts. That’s what everybody wants – the community would want Mr Waters remaining offence free.
“I would pray in aid to give Mr Waters this one opportunity to demonstrate that he is willing and able to make changes to his lifestyle and significantly reduce the risk of him coming back before these courts.”
Waters, who admitted burglary during an earlier hearing, was handed a year-long jail sentence, suspended for a year.
During sentencing, magistrates panel chairman Sheila McGrath said: “We’ve listened carefully to what has been said this afternoon. This was a significant theft, causing emotional upset for the victim.
“We have also taken into account your previous convictions and your early guilty plea. We are going to impose one years’ custody, but we are going to suspended that for 12 months.”
Waters was also handed a rehabilitation activity requirement of up to 40 days and handed an eight-week curfew from 7pm to 7am. He must also pay a £120 victim surcharge and £85 in court costs.