A warrant has been issued to arrest a pair of ‘freegans’ after they failed to turn up for their latest court appearance due to food poisoning.
Paul Barker, 39, and wife Kerry, 30, were due before Sunderland magistrates yesterday in relation to wine which went missing from Tesco on June 7.
Mrs Barker faces a theft of nine bottles of red – worth £89.91 – from the chain’s Express store in Front Street, Hetton. Her husband has been charged with handling stolen goods.
They were released on bail on the condition they went nowhere near Tesco and that they turned up to court yesterday.
However, they failed to arrive for their 10am hearing. Mrs Barker then claimed in a phone call to the court, at 11.57am, that both were suffering from sickness and diarrhoea.
The Barkers, of Caroline Street, Hetton, had previously appeared in court for stealing waste food from bins behind the same Tesco store.
Mr Barker was given an absolute discharge after a district judge ruled that his lack of finances meant no other penalty was open to him.
The couple had said all their benefits were stopped last year and they had been led to believe they would be without payment for a whole year.
However, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) later told the Echo that Barker’s benefits were sanctioned for a month in December, due to missed appointments, and the pair are now getting their full entitlement.
Mrs Barker pleaded guilty to theft from the back of the Tesco Express store in the town on February 6, in which she and her husband stole a pallet of discarded food.
She was given an absolute discharge by the court for the theft – the same sentence as her husband.
Paul Barker’s solicitor Brian Chapman said of yesterday’s non-appearance: “I would invite you to issue a warrant to see whether these people have indeed been stuck inside the bins in Tesco.”
Prosecutor Paul Anderson confirmed the alleged theft of the wine was from within the shop, not discarded outside.
Mr Anderson said Mr Barker had a history of failing to surrender, including in April and May this year, and June and September last year.
They will now be brought before the court on their arrest.
Mrs Barker last month also admitted theft in connection with a £115 vacuum cleaner destined to be delivered to a neighbour on April 15.
She had signed for the parcel, but instead of handing it over, she sold it for £70, telling police she had done it to buy drugs.