Thieving policeman jailed for 12 months

A LYING and thieving police constable who senior officers branded “a cancer in the force” is starting a 12-month jail sentence for stealing money from a sick pensioner.

By John Howard

A LYING and thieving police constable who senior officers branded “a cancer in the force” is starting a 12-month jail sentence for stealing money from a sick pensioner.

Pc David Clarke's 23-year career with the Suffolk Constabulary was in tatters last night after a jury found him guilty of theft of an 89-year-old man's money in Stowmarket last November.

Jurors also convicted Clarke, 45, who had run up debts of £18,000, of theft from a car during a covert operation by a Metropolitan Police anti-corruption team.

The sting saw him secretly filmed by officers hiding in bushes, as he stole £60 from what appeared to be an abandoned car.

Clarke, who lives in a police house in Barking Road, Needham Market and is married, was jailed for a year for stealing from pensioner Howard Last, and four months, to run concurrently, for the theft from the car.

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The judge also ordered he pay back former NHS worker and charity volunteer Mr Last's £1,100 within three months.

Clarke, who has maintained his innocence, shook his head on hearing the verdict and told the jury: “You got it wrong.”

His family broke down in court and were too distressed to comment afterwards.

After the trial, it emerged Clarke was charged with theft as far back as 1991 when serving as a police officer with the Suffolk force. He was acquitted of the offence at the direction of a judge after a trial at Bury St Edmunds.

During this week's trial at Norwich Crown Court, jurors heard Clarke was called to Mr Last's home in Stowmarket following a suspected heart attack. After Clarke's visit, £1,100 of the man's savings was found to be missing.

The police officer was then subjected to a sting operation, during which he was filmed and the money left in the apparently abandoned car was found in his warrant card.

Clarke had suffered from fairly severe financial problems several years ago and had needed professional help to deal with it, the court heard.

At the time of the sting, Clarke had debts of £18,000, which he was repaying at the rate of £500 a month from his monthly take-home salary of £1,650.

The court also heard that Clarke, who worked as a patrol officer in Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket, had suffered from stress.

Clarke denied both charges of theft and maintained in police interview that the money from the sting operation was his own. He claimed he had been “fitted up” by the force.

Following the verdict, Judge Peter Jacobs praised officers for the courage they showed in dealing with a fellow policeman.

Superintendent Martin Jelley, head of Suffolk Constabulary's professional standards unit, said Clarke's career with the force was at an end.

“We needed to cut him out like a cancer. Any officer who threatens the constabulary's effectiveness or reputation by breaking the law will be dealt with severely,” he said.

“This case clearly demonstrates that we have both the determination and capability to root out corrupt behaviour when it occurs. The message to local people is clear: Suffolk Constabulary will not tolerate corrupt behaviour and whenever action needs to be taken against an officer, we will take it.”

A Suffolk police spokesman added that Clarke would now also face internal disciplinary proceedings.