Serial thief with 20-year crime career behind bars

A SERIAL thief with a criminal record stretching back two decades to when he was just 15 has been jailed after admitting a string of housebreakings and stealing cars worth £80,000.

Christopher Van Nuil, 35, was jailed for three years and four months at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday after pleading guilty to six burglaries and the thefts of a BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes and a Volkswagen.

Van Nuil, described as a prisoner in Saughton, had admitted committing the offences between November 24, 2010 and June 1 this year.

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As well as the housebreaking and car thefts, he also pleaded guilty to driving while disqualified and without insurance.

His criminal record includes 30 housebreakings, as well as breaking into the same bank twice in 11 days and stealing charity collection tins as a teen.

In March 2001, Van Nuil hit the headlines after staging a gunpoint robbery at an off-licence in Castle Street where he trussed up two employees with tape and shoelaces before escaping with £4100 of cash and goods.

Van Nuil later phoned the police and admitted he was the armed robber they were hunting before handing himself in two weeks later at Leith police station.

He was jailed for six years over the robbery in July 2001 after also admitting illegally possessing a fake firearm, which was recovered in a car abandoned by Van Nuil after a police chase.

His latest spate of crimes also saw him disqualified from driving for a ten years, as well as the prison term.

Fiscal depute Pauline Shade told the court yesterday that property valued at £14,305 had been stolen and only £5265 recovered. The four stolen cars, which were valued at a total of £80,000, had all been recovered.

Defence solicitor Gillian Law said the most recent offences had been caused by Van Nuil’s escalating drug abuse. She told the court that he had been under pressure as his father and partner were both suffering from health problems and he had been acting as their carer.

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Since being on remand he had come off drugs, Ms Law said, adding that it was his intention to stay that way.

In October 1995, Van Nuil appeared in court for committing six housebreakings in Penicuik, Midlothian, and stealing another BMW.

The court heard that Van Nuil’s brother, a soldier, had been stabbed to death in July 1994 in London, and he wanted cash to buy drink and drugs to blot out the memory.

As a 17-year-old in June 1992, Van Nuil staged a pair of robberies at the same TSB branch in Penicuik and was later given nine months’ detention for that and a series of other crimes.