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Air Ambulance man wrestled with thief taking charity bags

Date: 27-Apr-2010

Maksim Safronov noticed that clothes left out for the Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland Air Ambulance were going missing, so he decided to investigate.

A court heard he drove around Swadlincote and found Wlayslaw Luczuk loading five bags into a van.

Mr Safronov, an area manager for the air ambulance, said he took the keys from Luczuk's van and wrestled with him until police arrived.

Luczuk, 53, admitted taking the bags when he appeared before Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court. He also admitted missing a previous court hearing. He was given a conditional discharge for 12 months.

Syma Akhtar, prosecuting, told the court Mr Safronov, who worked for DB Collections, had noticed bags had "disappeared".

She said: "He conducted his own inquiries and drove around Swadlincote."

Miss Akhtar said that after his arrest on April 1, Luczuk told police that he took the bags because he was poor and could not afford his own clothes.

She said he was "apologetic" and that the bags were recovered by the charity.

John Young, in mitigation, said Luczuk had shown remorse.

He said he had been in the country for about five years but had been unable to find employment for the last year because of the recession and because his English was poor.

As a result, he had been living in a Polish Catholic centre in Stoke and relying on friends for help with food and clothing.

Mr Young said: "He is embarrassed about being in this situation," adding that Luczuk now planned to return to Poland to find work.

Luczuk was given two, 12-month conditional discharges, to run concurrently. This means he will not be sentenced if he does not commit another crime for a year.

After the hearing, Mr Safronov, 32, said he first became suspicious when he noticed donations were low.

He said: "They were perhaps 50% down so I went out to have a look. I saw this small van and it pulled into a cul-de-sac. Then I saw a man carrying two of our bags to the van."

Mr Safronov said Luczuk pleaded with him to let him go.

He said: "He tried to take the bags out of his van to destroy the evidence but I said it was my job to call the police. We then ended up wrestling on the floor for a bit until the police arrived."

Roy Ellson, manager of DB Collections, praised the actions of Mr Safronov.

He said: "Unfortunately things like this do happen, it seems that nothing is safe now, but we would urge people to carry on looking out for us and contact us if they are ever concerned."

Claire Marshall, for the air ambulance, said: "As a registered charity we rely on voluntary income streams such as collection bags."

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