Maybe from now on UK locksmiths will be wearing rubber gloves ….
BURGLAR? NOT ME, I’M JUST THE LOCKSMITH
18 January 2008
Locksmith Lee Hicks was arrested for burglary when police found his fingerprints on locks he’d fixed – after the raid.Officers swooped on his Tewkesbury home and held him in custody for three hours.
They’d found his fingerprints at a garage that had been burgled, and assumed he was their man.
But he had been called to replace the locks the real burglars had broken.
His frightened wife and two young children looked on in disbelief as officers rummaged through wardrobes searching for evidence at 6am on Wednesday.
He tried to explain to the police why his fingerprints were at the scene of the crime.
But Lee was bundled into the back of a van and whisked off to Cheltenham Police Station.
The 33-year-old says he was shown no sympathy and treated like a criminal during his four hours in custody.
Now he is considering suing Gloucestershire Police for wrongful arrest. He said the whole thing was “unbelievable” .
He was called to change the locks at a petrol station in Newent on June 4 last year.
Raiders had smashed their way in and stolen a large number of cigarettes.
Because Lee had been in trouble with the law when he was younger, the police had his fingerprints on file.
Officers found his prints at the garage but Lee said they did not ask staff if a locksmith had been there.
Instead, they mounted a dawn raid, seven months later.
He said: “There was a loud bang on the door. There were three male police officers and one female officer. I was put into the back of a van with a cage in it.”
When he told officers at the police station they had made a mistake, the desk sergeant told him everyone claimed to be innocent.
Lee, who lives in Sallis Close, Northway, spent three hours in a cell waiting to be questioned.
He said: “They took my top from me because it had cords attached. I was shivering.
“When they finally questioned me, it was for less than five minutes.”
He is angry and amazed that the police took seven months to arrest the wrong man.
He said: “They took four hours of my life and the impression I got was they just didn’t care.
“I want someone from the police’s hierarchy to read this and think ‘this needs looking into and we can’t treat people like this’.
“It was hard to accept being locked up when you hadn’t done anything wrong.”
But Gloucestershire Police say they were right to arrest him.
Spokeswoman Kate Nelmes said he was released without charge after officers got proof he was a locksmith.
She said: “His fingerprints were picked up at the garage. It’s obvious he would be arrested. We wouldn’t know he was a locksmith or what he was doing there.”