'Prowler' finally brought to justice

A "PROWLER" who caused alarm in a quiet corner of Suffolk for more than three years has finally been stopped.Problems began in Lakenheath in 2001, and left many people in a state of fear – with some even too scared to leave their homes.

A "PROWLER" who caused alarm in a quiet corner of Suffolk for more than three years has finally been stopped.

Problems began in Lakenheath in 2001, and left many people in a state of fear – with some even too scared to leave their homes.

But this week villagers were finally able to put it all behind them with the news that the man responsible, an airman from RAF Mildenhall, has at last been caught and is now safely confined to the American airbase.

Technical Sergeant Thomas Robinson was sentenced to 60 days restriction to the base and was demoted two ranks to senior airman following a three-day special court-martial trial ending on February 25.

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He was found guilty of two specifications of disorderly conduct of a nature to bring discredit on the armed forces.

Between the period of December 2001 and January 2004 Suffolk police were inundated with complaints and reports that a man wearing a camouflaged hooded jacket was entering people's gardens and staring through windows.

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Although never ending in physical attacks, the incidents left residents anxious and frightened they were being watched.

Inspector Adrian Dawson, sector commander for Mildenhall, said last night: "This has been a long and on-going investigation. After a while the residents realised who the man was because he lived in the community but they were still very concerned."

Robinson had been investigated by both British and American police and was arrested in March 2002, but released due to a lack of evidence. In February this year he was arrested again on criminal damage and public nuisance charges, but the British prosecution was waved on the grounds that Robinson, an airman for 16 years, would be better dealt with under US military law.

Carol Tuffs, who lives near Robinson's home in Woodcutters Way, started up a neighbourhood watch scheme in the area as a result of his activities.

"I often saw him walk past my house at about 9.30pm and I always contacted the police to warn them he was around," she said.

Mrs Tuffs even stopped her 13-year-old daughter Michelle walking to and from the bus stop on her own.

"It was very worrying and I am so pleased he has been caught," she said. "This was our third winter with him around and it has just gone on far too long."

Pc Gary Page, also a Lakenheath resident, was responsible for the second arrest made on Robinson last month.

He said: "We first became aware of him when we received a report from a girl who had seen him crouching between a house and a car in 2001. At that point we did not realise what we were dealing with, but after that we received more and more sightings of what appeared to be the same man."

In 2003 the reports came to an abrupt halt because, as Pc Page later discovered, Robinson had been posted to serve in Iraq.

"It made people very uneasy, and some residents were even too scared to go outside to their garages at night in case he was out there watching them," said Pc Page.

"In the winter people complained of finding footprints in the snow outside their windows, where someone had obviously been standing for a length of time, and it just put everyone on edge."

On one occasion Robinson was accused of assaulting two American base officials after they tried to apprehend him - a charge he was later cleared of.

"I think people are very relieved he has finally been caught, because everyone just wanted him to be out of the area so he was no longer a threat," said Pc Page.

Captain Steven Sollinger , trial counsel for the proceedings against Robinson, said: "For an almost 16-year service member the reduction in grade and the corresponding loss of income both now and potentially in the retirement will be an enormous sum of money.

"The outstanding partnership the base has with the local law enforcement agencies helps us make sure that people who break the law are duly apprehended and punished, and this is an example of a person who now has to face the consequences of his actions."

Robinson, who entered an innocent plea to all charges, was acquitted on four counts of disorderly conduct and one count of assault culminating in battery.

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