Northern Ireland

Christmas squatter is jailed for six months

Scales of justice

A homeless man who squatted in a Belfast apartment over Christmas to escape the freezing weather has been jailed for six months.

Robert Lewandowski, 29, used keys he had stolen weeks earlier to move into the south Belfast flat once a woman who lived there left for the holidays.

The Polish national was said to have taken nothing during a four-day stay.

Belfast Magistrates Court heard the woman who lived in the flat and the police were sympathetic to his plight.

He used a stove, watched television and cleaned up after himself.

Lewandowski pleaded guilty to theft and wrongfully taking possession of the property at Tates Avenue between December 24 and 28.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard on Wednesday that he had been sleeping in apartment block communal areas after losing his home and job earlier this year.

'Stole keys'

He stole the keys after spotting the door to the flat lying open and went in after a party on 5 December.

A lawyer for Lewandowski, of no fixed address, said he had left the property exactly as he found it.

He told the court that when the woman and her partner returned to find him there the defendant did not try to leave.

The solicitor said his client was apologetic, but had only gone in on Christmas Eve when temperatures were down to -10C.

"He let himself in to keep out of the cold. For four days he used the TV and stove to heat some food," he said.

"He didn't take anything, and he had four days and ample opportunity to effectively clean the place out," the solicitor added.

But after Lewandowski waived his right to a pre-sentence report, the district judge said his theft and wrongful entry was without justification.

He was jailed for two terms of six months each to run concurrently.

He also agreed to fix bail pending a planned appeal, although Lewandowski was not released as he had no suitable address.