A BRAZEN burglar stole a children’s charity box after smashing his way into a sweet shop through the roof.

Bolton Crown Court heard how homeless Geoffrey Ashcroft climbed onto the roof of the You Sweetie shop in Bradshawgate, Leigh, at 6.30am on July 18.

David Toal, prosecuting, told how he cut a metre-wide hole in the ceiling, causing damage estimated at £600, and dropped into the shop.

“There was lots of debris on the floor, there were items pulled out and scattered on the floor,” said Mr Toal.

The cash drawer, containing a £60 float, was taken, along with a charity box belonging to the Willow children’s counselling service.

When shop owner David Murphy discovered the break-in he checked the CCTV.

"It showed the defendant entering the premises, cutting the string of the charity box and essentially rummaging around the interior of the premises," said Mr Toal.

But when Mr Murphy went outside he spotted Ashcroft, the man he had seen on the CCTV.

"Mr Murphy challenged the defendant, who denied any responsibility," said Mr Toal, but the shopkeeper and another man grabbed him and kept hold of him for half an hour until police arrived. A knife was later found in Ashcroft's pocket.

Prolific thief Ashcroft, aged 40, of Briar Grove, Leigh, pleaded guilty to burglary.

Colin Buckle, defending, stressed that Ashcroft was homeless at the time, effectively living on the streets, and stealing to feed a drug habit.

Judge Timothy Stead sentenced Ashcroft to two years in prison.

"You are 40 years of age and you have a depressingly long record of offending," he told him.