A SERIAL burglar, who had
already targeted more than 500 churches, has been caught after he
raided three dozen more while on the run from prison.
On Monday, Christopher John
Coulthard, aged 50 and originally from Bedworth, near Nuneaton,
Warwickshire, admitted four specimen counts of burglary and one of
theft, and asked for a further 31 offences to be taken into
A nationwide search was
launched for him last week, after he failed to keep to the
conditions of a release-licence granted in November, two years into
a prison sentence imposed in 2010 for burglaries in the Midlands.
He had originally been jailed for ten years, but, in 2011, it was
reduced on appeal to a six-year term.
Police in six counties -
Cumbria, Humberside, Lancashire, North Yorkshire, Oxfordshire, and
Warwickshire - linked him to a string of break-ins at churches, all
committed after his release. In one week alone, 15 churches in
North Yorkshire were raided.
He was finally caught on
Sunday morning, after a worshipper at St Andrew's, Ulrome, near
Bridlington, in East Yorkshire, noticed a man acting suspiciously
inside the church. Humberside Police were alerted, and officers
were dispatched to check other churches in the area. As a
patrol-car drew up outside All Saints', Skipsea, a mile away, the
officers saw Mr Coulthard, and arrested him.
On Monday, he pleaded guilty
at Beverley Magistrates' Court to burglary at St Hilda's,
Ampleforth, and St John the Baptist, Cayton, both in North
Yorkshire; at the Salvation Army Citadel in Bridlington; and St
John's, Harpham, near Driffield, East Yorkshire; he also admitted
theft by walk-in at St Peter and St Paul's, Pickering, in North
Yorkshire - all offences committed between 17 and 23 February.
Mr Coulthard used a bicycle
to travel between his targets, and often stayed in an area in pubs
or B&Bs, using an alias. His pickings were rarely large: he
took cash from collection boxes or petty-cash tins, but often left
He was remanded in custody,
and will appear at Hull Crown Court for sentencing on 25 March.
At the Court of Appeal
hearing in 2011, a judge said that Mr Coulthard had a "spectacular"
record for crime, and had spent about 30 of his then 49 years in
prison. In 2003, in court in Swansea, Mr Coulthard had asked for
502 crimes at churches and chapels to be taken into