A CHARITY shop burglar — who was caught after police traced his footsteps in the snow — has avoided jail.

Paul Battersby, who has an extensive criminal record, broke into the Sue Ryder shop in Lee Lane, Horwich, after seeing an ornamental dog in the window he thought his ill wife, who he had argued with, might like.

Battersby, aged 40, of Ormston Avenue, Horwich, and co-accused Aron Mort, aged 29, of New Street, Bolton, broke into the store at about 3am on March 22.Simon Blackford, prosecuting at Bolton Crown Court yesterday, said a takeaway owner phoned police after he was woken by banging and saw two men trying to break into the store.

The burglars were inside the shop for about three minutes and were arrested after police retraced their footsteps in the snow to the store. The court heard that the ornamental dog was damaged, along with a plastic sign, and nothing was taken.

Ann Deakin, defending, said Battersby had left his wife’s home following a row, saw the ornamental dog and wanted to give it to her. The dog broke when he smashed a window.

Ms Deakin told the court Battersby said Mort had no part in the burglary and that the offence was committed after he had taken diazepam. Battersby’s wife is unwell and had been receiving treatment at The Christie. He has apologised to the store manager.

Judge Timothy Stead, sentencing, said: “From what I am told I gather you are thoroughly ashamed.”

Battersby, who has previously served an eight-and-a-half year jail term for robbery, was sentenced to a 12-month community order, with 12 months supervision and a year-long drug rehabilitation order.

Ann Pover, store manager, said: “Paul Battersby came in with a baby and I was shocked. He was devastated and said he was sorry and if the police would let him, he would volunteer. I did think he was very brave to apologise. We are just glad they have been caught.”

Mort will be sentenced at a later date.