A victim of a prolific thief who targeted sports clubs on the Fylde coast has today told of his relief after he was jailed for five years.
Alan Philip, of no fixed abode, stole valuables worth almost £5,000 on two trips to Fylde during his carefully planned heists.
The 62-year-old took cash, phones and wallets from the changing rooms at St Annes Cricket Club and Fylde Rugby Club on two separate occasions last year.
Despite a public appeal last summer he evaded capture for months until he was arrested in Brighton after one of his victims tracked him down from a photo he took using the phone he stole from her.
He admitted 29 offences all over the country – including the two on the Fylde coast – and was sentenced to five years in prison by a judge at Lewes Crown Court.
St Annes club skipper Andy Kellett said: “He was a professional con-man and robbed us of a lot of money and iPhones – there were six or seven players who found they had their money stolen.
“He had been at the club all day and had obviously done his homework.”
Avon and Somerset Police, who were investigating several offences Philip committed in the Bath area, said the crimes were carefully researched.
On August 3, 2014, the 62-year-old, who also uses the name Anthony Tye, stole mobile phones and cash worth close to £2,500 from St Annes Cricket Club, on Vernon Road.
It followed a similar offence at Fylde Rugby Club, targeting visiting club Cinderford, on Blackpool Road, Ansdell. On that occasion, on March 22, 2014, he stole cash, wallets, driving licences and phones worth £2,500 from seven victims.
In January, Philip was arrested at a hotel in Brighton, where he was staying, days after he struck during a women’s rugby match.
One of his victims, a member of the visiting team, helped snare him when she recognised the hotel from a picture taken on her stolen phone, which automatically uploaded to the internet.
After being arrested by Sussex Police, he was quizzed by officers from other forces over a string of offences he was suspected of committing.
Det Con Anthony Swift, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: “Alan Philip travelled the length and breadth of England using public transport and staying in guest houses.
“He meticulously researched local sports fixtures and teams, arriving before the games started to familiarise himself with the changing rooms and exits.
“During the matches, he would sometimes mingle with the crowd and speak to the players during halftime, convincing them he was working for the other team and collecting valuables for ‘safe keeping’.On other occasions, he would enter changing rooms and help himself to the contents of bags and lockers.
“This concludes a challenging investigation – Philip had no bank accounts, relatives or personal vehicle and was incredibly hard to trace.
“After committing his audacious crimes he would leave the area, making his way to the next town or city.
“He was a prolific offender who stole a large amount of personal property and cash, much of which remains outstanding.
“This has caused considerable hardship and misery for his many victims.”