A mystery burglar was caught when an off-duty police officer spotted his distinctive tattoos at a football match.
Police had managed to obtain CCTV of a suspect but his identity remained a puzzle.
That was until an off-duty cop recognised him at Nottingham Forest’s fixture against Middlesbrough, at the City Ground, on September 15 last year.
PC Philip Brownlow, of the city centre neighbourhood policing team, recognised his face as well as tattoos on his neck and right hand.
The officer covertly made enquires and put wheels in motion that led to Jamie Kilburn’s arrest.
The 29-year-old has now been convicted of committing three burglaries and was sentenced yesterday (Wednesday 23 February) at Nottingham Crown Court.
Recalling the moment he recognised Kilburn, PC Brownlow said: “It was incredible really. Earlier that day I was reviewing CCTV that captured the burglaries taking place.
“He wasn’t known to us so there was some work to do in terms of establishing who he was. But then later that evening I went to the Forest game and saw a man on the concourse with the same distinctive tattoos on both sides of his neck and back of the hand.
“I couldn’t believe it – as soon as I saw him I was 100 per cent sure he was the man in the CCTV stealing parcels. Forest lost 2-0 that night but I went home pleased we’d found our prime suspect.”
PC Brownlow said he spotted Kilburn on the concourse ahead of kick-off and that it appeared he was working as a cleaner.
He therefore took a photo of him at a distance and later asked club officials for his details.
“It turned out he worked for an external private contract cleaning company that are employed to work on matchdays at the club,” said PC Brownlow.
“We contacted the company and that was how we managed to find out who he was.”
Kilburn became a wanted man after Amazon and eBay parcels were stolen from a student complex.
The accommodation, in Talbot Street, Nottingham city centre, was targeted twice on August 26 and once on September 7.
The building manager contacted police after students complained to her that their parcels had been going missing after the delivery companies had said they had been delivered.
The manager viewed CCTV and it captured an unknown man entering the property via an open fire exit and helping himself to parcels left in a mailroom.
A tattoo on Kilburn’s right hand was captured on CCTV as he reached out to grab one of the parcels and, coupled with his neck tattoos, PC Brownlow was able to identify Kilburn as the offender.
Upon his arrest, a hoody, puffer jacket and shorts matching those worn in the CCTV were found in Kilburn’s flat in Shakespeare Street – adding to the overwhelming evidence that resulted in him entering guilty pleas at court.
A judge sentenced him to a 12-month community order, which includes 100 hours of unpaid work and a drug rehabilitation programme.
During yesterday’s sentencing, the prosecution said it was “much to the officer’s credit” that he recognised Kilburn at the Nottingham Forest game.
Inspector Paul Gummer, who leads the city centre neighbourhood policing team, said afterwards: “It is quite remarkable that PC Brownlow was able to spot Kilburn on a busy concourse packed with football supporters.
“Had it not been for his uncanny ability to recognise people, Kilburn could have remained at large and gone on to commit further offences.
“PC Brownlow therefore deserves a huge amount of credit in ensuring he was put before the courts to answer for his crimes.”
Earlier this month, it was revealed how a sustained force-wide crackdown on burglaries had seen homes in the county become safer as incidents continue to fall.
Figures taken from the Office for National Statistics show that there are nearly four fewer burglaries a day compared to the previous year.
Thanks to the dedicated work of teams throughout the force, including two dedicated burglary teams and Operation Reacher, homeowners are now safer than ever with residential burglaries reducing by 28 per cent in the last year alone.
The force has seen a staggering drop of 34 percent when compared to the same period in 2019 – before the pandemic hit.
Detective Chief Inspector Richard Bull, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “We understand the impact burglaries can have on victims and that is why our officers take such a strong stance on the matter.
“Officers are regularly sending out safety messaging and speaking to residents on how best to protect their homes and belongings and we also focus on any patterns that may appear across the county showing areas where burglaries are occurring.
“We will continue to work incredibly hard to make sure the people of Nottinghamshire’s concerns are listened to, they are kept safe and burglaries are fully investigated and those responsible brought to justice.”