Burmantofts man who stole women's handbags to fund drug habit is jailed

A serial handbag thief has been finally been put to justice in Leeds this week, as he was warned that unless he gets on top of his drug habit, his sentences will increase.

By Richard Beecham
Friday, 27th May 2022, 4:45 am

Jason Webster, 42, of Ascot Terrace, Burmantofts, stole three women's handbags at various food and drink establishments around town, as well as charging purchases worth more than £300 to stolen bank cards, Leeds Crown Court heard this week.

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The court how Webster had been convicted for 65 charges of theft since 1994.

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Webster was jailed for 26 months

On December 16, 2021, a complainant was sat eating her lunch in the food hall of Kirkgate Market in Leeds, having placed her handbag - containing her car keys and purse - on the back of her chair.

Having heard a voice shout "run", she saw Webster with her bag - she then chased after him and managed to catch him with the help of security guards.

The court heard how Webster attempted to explain that he found the bag lying on the floor - the victim asked how that couldn't be true if he was ruinning away.

On December 29, 2021, a victim was in the Hedley Verity pub in Leeds city centre when she put her handbag on the back of her chair. She later noticed her bag was missing and, after alerting staff, it was found CCTV showed Webster taking her handbag from the back of her chair.

On January 13, 2022, a victim was sat in a pub eating dinner when she placed her handbag on the floor near her chair. She would soon notice the bag, which contained an iPhone and her purse, had gone missing. Again after consulting CCTV, Webster was found to have accessed the bag via a gap underneath a covid barrier, before passing it to another man who hid it under his coat, and the two made their escape.

As well as the thefts, Webster was also convicted of 11 counts of fraud, each of which referred to using strangers' bank cards for £30 purchases.

Mitigating for Webster, Rukshanda Hussain told the court: "He has a drug addiction - he needs to stop that habit or the offending will continue.

"He is getting older and his sentences will get longer if he continues this."

Webster had pled guilty to counts of theft, 11 counts of fraud and failure to surrender. The court also heard the offences took place during the suspended sentence period for previous crimes.

Sentencing Webster, Recorder Anesh Pema said: "The victims of the thefts are people who have gone out and about in their day to day life."

Referring to his claims that he found the bag on the floor when caught for the first offence, Judge Pema said: "Your response was as unconvincing as it possibly could have been.

"You are a career criminal. It's due to drugs but the number of offences are significant."

He sentenced Webster to a total of 25 months in prison.