Book thief raided London flagship Waterstones 3 times to fund crack and heroin addiction

By Staff

A drug-addicted thief who raided Europe’s biggest new and second-hand bookshop three times has been spared the prison library. Allan McCandless, a serial shoplifter with 30 convictions, nipped into Waterstones on Gower Street, Bloomsbury, and walked off with an armful of books on June 30, July 6, and August 3 in 2022, the Old Bailey heard on Tuesday, March 19.

There was nothing novel about the methods of the literary larcenist who simply left without paying, then sold the books for cash to pay for crack cocaine and heroin. In the end, McCandless was caught by the CCTV cameras.

Gower Street Waterstones totted up the losses – of £100, £100, and £134.98 – to a total of over £330. In each case, the books were never recovered. But, the court heard there had been limited harm to the bookselling giant, which reported profits of £11.2million in the last tax year to April 29 2023.

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At the Old Bailey, McCandless asked his barrister to express remorse on his behalf. Defence counsel Piers Walter said his client had reduced his drug addiction ‘quite significantly’ in the face of respiratory problems, and argued the thefts were not sophisticated.

“The overriding reason why these offences were committed was to fund his habit,” said Mr Walker.

But Judge Rebecca Trowler KC disagreed with Mr Walker’s assertion there was no planning at all. “The offences plainly involved some planning as you have attempted to steal them to obtain money,” she told McCandless.

While a fine would normally suffice, Judge Trowler considered McCandless’s long record of acquisitive offending when she sentenced him to three concurrent community orders of 24 months, 120 hours of unpaid work, and a drug rehabilitation activity requirement (DRR).

“If you fail to complete unpaid work or co-operate with supervision, or engage with the DRR, you will be in breach of the order and you will be brought back to court to be resentenced,” she warned.

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