Underwear thief jailed after breaking into women’s homes in Rugby

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A Rugby man broke into women’s homes at night to steal their underwear which he then hoarded in his bedroom, a judge has heard.

Graham Lees pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to four charges of burglary and two of stealing more underwear from washing lines near his home.

The 32-year-old, of Victoria Road, also admitted a further charge of producing cannabis and was jailed for a total of four years.

Prosecutor Warren Stanier said at the beginning of July last year Lees broke into a house in Clarence Road while the occupants were away.

“He took a games console and a camera, which were later found at his home, and a quantity of ladies’ underwear - which is a theme which runs through his previous offending and these offences.”

Lees burgled the same address in the early hours of the morning in September - when a 16-year-old girl was asleep on the sofa in the living room with the family dog.

But he disturbed the dog, and the girl woke to see him standing near her. When she challenged him Lees made no reply and walked out.

The girl alerted her mother who came downstairs and, on hearing a noise outside, looked out of the window and came face to face with Lees, who was still hanging around.

Mr Stanier said the incident has had such a traumatic effect on the family, with the girl being frightened of what might have happened if the dog had not woken, that they have decided to move.

In October Lees targeted another house in Clarence Road, breaking in during the afternoon.

When the woman who lived there with her two daughters got home she reported the break-in, but at first did not realise items of underwear had been stolen.

Later that month she was asleep in bed when Lees broke in at six in the morning by removing the board which had been put over the window he damaged in the earlier burglary.

Lees walked into her bedroom – but he quickly left when she screamed, and she slammed the door shut as she continued to scream at him to get out.

The woman was aware neighbours had suffered similar incidents, but says she feels ‘victimised and singled out’ and is scared to stay overnight in her own home.

When she spoke to a neighbour the next day, that woman realised the break-in was probably connected to instances when she had not been able to find particular items of underwear which she suspected had been stolen from the washing line.

Her housemate had also suffered similar thefts, so they reported their suspicions to the police.

And when Lees was arrested their underwear was among a number of bags of similar items recovered from his bedroom, and officers also found the remnants of 12 cannabis plants he had grown for his own use.

Mr Stanier pointed out that in 2003 Lees had been given a three-year community order, later varied to a three-month jail term after he breached the order, for indecently assaulting a woman after walking into her home and putting his hand under the duvet while she and her boyfriend were asleep, and for thefts of underwear from washing lines.

He was given another community sentence in 2005 for further thefts of underwear from washing lines.

Robert Hodgkinson, defending, said one psychiatrist who has examined Lees ‘thinks he suffers from full-on obsessive compulsive disorder’ – but a second puts his behaviour down to ‘a mental disorder of sexual preferences, namely a fetish, a sexual attraction to women’s underwear since the age of 14.’

Mr Hodgkinson, who described Lees as ‘a bit of a loner,’ said the only alternative to immediate custody would be a suspended sentence with a condition of psychiatric treatment, and argued that ‘no-one is going to benefit by shutting him up.’

But jailing Lees, Recorder William Mousley QC told him: “These must have been very frightening and distressing events for those occupiers.

“This is a case that must be met by a immediate prison sentence. The protection of the public must take priority over your treatment.”