City watch thief pays heavy price


A prolific thief who stole close to £50,000 worth of watches from gym lockers in the City faces the next 16 months in prison after police clocked on to his scam.

John Fletcher, 43, of Church Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, was jailed by a judge at Carlisle Crown Court after pleading guilty to 12 thefts from three locations. The court heard that Fletcher attended one of the gyms beforehand and signed up for membership using his bank details and a pseudonym, Jason Fletcher, to allow him access to the locker rooms without being questioned.

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Behind bars: John Fletcher

On 20 June using the fake name he joined a City branch of Virgin Active. He also used ‘tailgaiting’ as a tactic to follow members into two other facilities. On each occasion, police received several reports of similar thefts of watches from gym lockers, and City of London Police launched an investigation, viewing CCTV in the process.

On 22 June, four gym-goers reported that their changing room lockers had been forced open at the Ropemaker Street branch of Nuffield Health. Five days later, six more members of the public notified police that they had been targeted while using the facilities at Virgin Active in Exchange Square.

Upon viewing CCTV, Fletcher could be seen walking through the gym to the men’s changing areas. Both times, he entered the gym without a kit bag or any change of clothes, and left around 40 minutes later having not used any of the gym equipment. On 18 August, he also attended the Grange Hotel in Coopers Row and followed a member into the gym area to access the changing room. Two more thefts were reported shortly after. In total, Fletcher stole 11 designer watches and cash, worth approximately £47,700, including a Breitling Chronomat worth £6,500, a Rolex Daytona valued at £8,000, and a Cartier Roadster watch worth £5,000.

Acting upon intelligence on Fletcher’s whereabouts, officers located him to an address in Scotland and he was arrested by City of London Police officers on 4 October. At court last Monday, Fletcher was sentenced to a total of 16 months’ imprisonment for all 12 offences to run concurrently, and also ordered to pay a £140 victim surcharge. Detective Constable Yagmur Koz, who led the investigation, said: “Fletcher made a habit of targeting upmarket gyms to steal money and expensive watches, repeating the tactic on numerous occasions because he clearly thought he would never get caught. “Today’s sentence shows that he was very wrong – and thanks to a determined investigation by City of London Police, as well as a reliable CCTV network, he has been punished accordingly.

“We would remind people, while gym locker rooms are safe and secure, only take expensive items with you if you absolutely need to, to lessen your chances of becoming a victim of crime. “The majority of gyms also have safes near reception for members to leave valuable items in, so you can also consider using these.”