A FATHER of two has been jailed for 20 months for stealing a purse from an elderly volunteer while she led a church support group for people with dementia.

Maciey Zielinski, 39, also admitted conning a city rector into paying for a night in a Travelodge for him and his family before sneaking into the church to swipe the £100 float.

He pleaded guilty to a total of six “nasty and mean” crimes, including fraud, burglary and thefts that took place across the city between March 7 and March 22 this year.

As part of his offending, Chester Crown Court heard that Zielinski, of Vernon Street, Wrexham, crept into an office at the University of Chester and stole a staff member’s purse.

And in the same timeframe he took a purse from the handbag of an 87-year-old worshipper at Chester Cathedral.

Zielinski was tearful in the dock for his sentencing hearing on Thursday (June 6) and had claimed that he only stole bank cards and cash in desperation after losing his agency job in December.

He was adamant the money was used to pay for basics such as food and accommodation for his family, as well as the occasional gift.

One transaction was made to purchase a games console controller for his son.

Judge Simon Berkson accepted there were mitigating circumstances but said the crimes were so serious that only a sentence of immediate custody was appropriate.

Describing the offences as “nasty and mean”, he told Zielinski: “No wonder you look so ashamed in the dock of this court.

“There are many people in desperate straits but who don’t commit the nasty crimes that you committed.”

Chester and District Standard:

Maciey Zielinski.

Jo Maxwell, prosecuting, told the court Zielinski first struck on March 7 this year when he took a purse belonging to a volunteer as she held a dementia support group at the Wesley Methodist Church.

In a victim impact statement, the woman said she had since been diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression and felt she could no longer continue in her role.

Two days later, on March 9, the defendant targeted an 87-year-old’s handbag which was on the back of her chair in the cathedral refectory.

The following day the rector of St John the Baptist’s Church, David Chesters, and his wife realised the £100 church float was missing and checked their CCTV cameras.

Revd Chesters then recognised the man sneaking into the building as the same one he had taken confession from on March 7 and whom he had given cash to spend the night in a Travelodge.

Days later, Zielinski crept into an office at the University of Chester campus and stole a purse containing cash, cards and personal family photos.

In a victim impact statement, the female university worker said: “The burglary felt like a violation of my privacy. There was a photo of my son that was taken from me. I was very upset. Clearly I won’t see them [the photos] again.”

She also said the incident led to a “horrible vibe” in the office as people suspected other co-workers or students of the theft.

Finally, on March 22, Zielinski stole a purse from a woman’s handbag at the Riverside Innovation Centre in Chester when she left it unattended for 25 minutes.

It also emerged that during this time Zielinski, his pregnant wife and two children aged 10 and 14 had been staying at the Baytree Lodge guest house in Chester for a week, but only paid for one night.

Police officers arrested him soon after and he made full admissions in his interview.

Chester and District Standard:

St John the Baptist’s Church was targeted.

Michael Gray, defending, stressed that his client had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and had no previous convictions.

“He found himself in a desperate situation,” he said. “Everything he did was for his family, for food, living expenses and giving them gifts when he could.

“He is ashamed of his behaviour and is extremely apologetic for the upset he has caused. He didn’t give it any thought whatsoever at the time but on reflection he can see the damage and harm he has caused.”

Zielinski will spend half of his sentence in custody and half in the community on licence.

  •  Following the hearing, PC Melissa Sawojka, Chester City Centre Beat Manager, who led on the case, said: “Zielinski not only deliberately targeted those who attend church but broke into a place of worship to steal money even after they had financially supported him and his family.

“His mind was on stealing from those who give so much to those who need help in our local community.

“I’m pleased Zielinski has owned up to his crimes and will now be punished for committing them.”

Inspector Emma Parry, of Chester Local Policing Unit, added: “The officers who worked on this case were determined to find Zielinski. They worked very hard to ensure his arrest and gather evidence which meant he had no choice but to admit to his crimes.

“Unfortunately thieves will always try their best to strike and we have to ensure we do all we can to prevent them. I want to take this opportunity to remind the public that they can help by always keeping their belongings safe, either close by and in sight or locked securely away.”