SINGAPORE: A man who broke into a housemate's room and stole cash while wearing socks on his hands was caught red-handed on closed-circuit television and jailed for four weeks on Tuesday (Aug 20).
French national Christophe Olivier Alexandre, 38, pleaded guilty to one charge of housebreaking by night in order to steal US$900 (S$1,248).
The court heard that Alexandre, an audit manager, was renting a bedroom at an apartment in downtown Singapore along with other housemates.
The victim, Mr Raybin Matthew Vernon, noticed that his items had gone missing before, and so placed a CCTV camera - equipped with a motion detection function - in his room.
Mr Vernon went overseas from Feb 7 to Feb 14 this year and locked the door to his bedroom before leaving.
Alexandre asked Mr Vernon for his travel details, and sent him a text on the first day of his trip to ask about it.
FISHED KEY OUT, ENTERED VICTIM'S ROOM
The keys for all the bedrooms were kept in a locked box in the common area of the apartment, so that a part-time maid can enter the rooms when cleaning the apartment.
While the victim was away, Alexandre managed to fit his fingers into the box and retrieved Mr Vernon's room key, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Sng.
He unlocked Mr Vernon's room with the key and entered it at about 9.20pm on Feb 7. Using a piece of cloth to cover his hands, he touched various items and opened cupboard doors.
All this was caught on the CCTV, which was activated when he entered Mr Vernon's room.
At 9.33pm, Alexandre took the socks off his feet and wore them over his hands.
"The socks remained over the accused's hands for the duration of the footage," said the prosecutor.
He rummaged through Mr Vernon's cupboard, dresser, bedside table, desk, drawers and other belongings, and also read documents kept in the room.
At 10.52pm, Alexandre removed cash from a drawer under Mr Vernon's bed and counted the money. He placed US$900 on the bed and returned the remaining cash to the drawer.
VICTIM GETS ALERT, ASKS TENANTS TO CHECK HIS ROOM
Meanwhile, Mr Vernon had received alerts from the CCTV camera that there were movements in his room. He sent a text to a Whatsapp chat group made up of the apartment's tenants, asking for someone to check on his room.
At 11.08pm, another tenant knocked on Mr Vernon's door while Alexandre was still inside. Alexandre turned off the lights and hid in the toilet, but the tenant found him squatting in the corner of the toilet in darkness.
The two men left the room together, but Alexandre returned to the room and took the US$900 cash he had left on the bed.
Alexandre later replied to Mr Vernon's text, saying he had been in his room looking for a key to the mailbox.
Mr Vernon lodged a police report when he returned to Singapore, saying that the CCTV footage from a camera in his room showed Alexandre entering his room and removing items from it.
The police found US$610 stuffed in toothpaste boxes in Alexandre's room.
He repaid the remaining US$290 in May.
The prosecutor sought a month's jail, saying that Alexandre's actions were deliberate and premeditated, and that he had taken the trouble to ask the victim about when he was travelling.
He had also used a cloth and then socks on his hands while rummaging through the room.
Alexandre's defence lawyer said his client had returned the money at a very early stage, and that he had no previous convictions in France or Singapore.
District Judge Ng Peng Hong ordered the toothpaste boxes and socks to be forfeited to the police for disposal, while the cash was to be returned to its owner.
For housebreaking by night to commit theft, he could have been jailed between two and 14 years.