'Odd' series of break-ins at Captains Flat

A CAPTAINS Flat man who broke into a number of neighbouring residences to steal food and make fake calls to emergency service over the course of a three-week crime spree faced Queanbeyan Local Court on Monday.

In what Magistrate Mark Douglass called a "very odd case," unemployed Foxlow Street resident Gavin John Collins, 41, pleaded guilty to six counts of break and enter, one count of damage property and one count of making a false call to emergency services following a string of offences commencing on Monday, April 28.

Police began investigating Collins after receiving an anonymous call that afternoon that a man was waving a firearm at people at a nearby Foxlow Street residence. Police checks of the address provided by the anonymous caller showed the property did hold registered firearms. According to facts before the court, police then attended the scene and found the anonymous call to be false.

They then called back the landline used to place the anonymous call with no answer. Police were eventually able to reach one of the owners of that property on a mobile phone. The owner said he and his wife had been out of town working since early that morning, and no one had been home to make any calls.

Police attended their property found a back laundry window smashed. The residents returned home to meet police and reported a number of items missing from their house as well as some clothing rifled through. Items taken included a digital phone, a 3-Litre bottle of milk, some canned food and beer.

The owners mentioned to police that another nearby Foxlow St property was currently vacant while its owner was in hospital. Police attended that scene and, while they were inspecting the property, a man exited the house from a rear sliding door and ran off into neighbouring bushland, evading police. On inspecting the house, police reported that it appeared the main bedroom of the home had been in recent use. They also found items removed from the previous house.

Enquiries with local police identified Collins as a potential suspect. His parents reported he hadn't been seen at home since three days prior on Anzac Day.

Police inspected other vacant properties around Captains Flat that evening and surprised Collins at another vacant residence. He again fled into bushland and evaded police. Collins would later admit to six break and enters, including at a local childcare centre and the Captains Flat community hall. Small amounts of food, drink and loose change were reported missing at most sites.

Collins then hitchhiked to Queanbeyan last Sunday afternoon to hand himself in to police and has been in custody since.

Magistrate Douglass said the facts of the case were so strange that he ordered the accused to undertake a full psychiatric report despite the fact that Collins said he had no history of mental illness.

"This all just sounds odd to me," Magistrate Douglass said after reading the facts. "Do you suffer from a mental illness?"

"No, your honour," replied the accused.

"Have you ever been assessed?"

"No, your honour."

The magistrate then ordered a pre-sentence report and full psychiatric report be prepared prior to sentencing in June.

"I'm not satisfied that there's not some [mental] issues floating around. I think as a matter of justice they need to be explored," Magistrate Douglass said. Collins was refused bail on Monday and will face court again for sentence on June 30.

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