A car owner who spotted a woman opening her car and stealing from it offered to help the thief, but she ran off when a police car approached, a court has heard.
A description of the encounter was given during proceedings against Ruth Borda, who was accused of stealing two cars, stealing from another and breaching the conditions of a previous court sentence.
One of the stolen cars was crashed into a crane, and ended up on fire.
The cases happened between January and May 2018.
Cars stolen outside police station
In the first case, the court was told that while a man called at the Paola police station to sign the bail book, a woman was seen stealing his car.
Footage from a nearby camera showed the woman get into the car, drive it for a short distance, then emerge carrying items stolen from the vehicle.
The car owner uploaded the footage on Facebook. Police recognised Ms Borda from the footage, as she was already known to them.
In a separate case, a man was walking out of Paola police station when he saw the accused get into his Toyota and drive off. He immediately went back into the police station to report the theft. He was later informed that the vehicle had been crashed into a crane and ended up on fire in Naxxar.
In another case, the court heard how on May 16, 2018, the police received a report about an Audi car blocking a garage in a garage complex with controlled access in Gżira. The car had been reported stolen from Sliema.
While the police were on site in Gżira, Ms Borda turned up. She told the police that she had lost her keys. A jacket inside the stolen Audi was later found to belong to her. A witness later told the police he had seen Ms Borda drive the car into the garage complex.
Car owner offers to help thief
In the last case, a woman, Elaine Pavia, testified how on May 29 she had confronted Ms Borda after seeing her open the door of her car, which was parked at Naxxar square.
Ms Pavia told the court:
“I asked her, ‘Why did you open my car?’ She told me sorry, ‘I won’t do it again.’
“I asked her what she had taken.
“'Nothing', she replied.
“I told her, 'Show me what’s in your bag.'
“She said, 'Don’t touch anything.'
“I told her I won’t touch anything, I’m just asking you to open your bag.
“I also told her: ‘I can help you, I am involved in social work. I can give you something to eat and to drink, and I am ready to help you.
“She replied: ‘No one can help me. I have problems, no one can help me.’
“But I am ready to help you,” Pavia replied.
The accused told her: “ Give me a number where I can contact you.”
Ms Pavia said she went around her car to fetch a card with details where the accused could get help.
As she opened the car, she realised that her purse was missing.
“Give me my purse,” she told the accused.
The accused opened her bag and handed her the purse.
“So you had taken something after all,” she told her.
“Sorry,” the accused replied.
At that time, a police car drew up and the accused walked away.
The policeman asked Ms Pavia what had happened and she told him that the woman had opened her car and taken her purse, but she had since returned it.
The police approached the woman, who fled. They chased and arrested her.
The police told the court that they had been alerted to the case because the accused was seen acting suspiciously around the parked cars.
After she was arrested, the accused tried to escape from the police station but was apprehended. The accused gave three different names to the police when they sought her particulars, but they established her identity through the address she gave them and realised she was on the wanted list because of previous cases.
In finding the accused guilty of all the thefts, Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech also observed that according to a Social Enquiry Report, the accused had also been convicted of seven previous cases and had served time in jail.
The court also observed that one of the theft victims had offered to help the accused, but she refused.
The accused did not have enough of a strong will to get out of her 'enslavement to drugs’ which was leading her to steal, the court observed.
In handing down a prison sentence, the court said it hoped that this would enable the accused to follow a drug rehabilitation programme.
The accused was therefore condemned to five years and eight months imprisonment. The court also ordered the confiscation of €7,500 in bail guarantees and ordered the accused to pay €1,165 in court fees.
Veronica Anne Spiteri was counsel for the defence.
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