Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

South Wales Police Officer jailed for stealing safe holding £16,000 after misusing police computer

11 Jul 2024 5 minute read
South Wales Police HQ In Bridgend. Photo via Google

A police sergeant who burgled a home and stole a safe containing £16,000 has been jailed for six years and four months.

Father-of-two Ben Cooke misused the computer system at South Wales Police to plan the raid after he read intelligence which suggested a large sum of cash was kept at the property in Maesteg.

The following day, on February 7, the 34-year-old entered the property in full police uniform after the female householder heard two knocks on the front door while she was in the shower.

She came out of the bathroom and was “shocked” to be confronted by Cooke, who told her he had a warrant to search the house because of suspected drug dealing, Cardiff Crown Court heard.

Cooke took her mobile phone and ordered her to stay in the living room as he went back upstairs, where he retrieved the family safe from the main bedroom.

When the householder told him she did not know where the key to the safe was, he said he would have to take it him with so his colleagues could open it, the court heard.

No record

The woman’s husband later went to Bridgend police station and was told they had no record of any officer attending the address.

On February 9, Cooke rang South Wales Police’s anti-corruption unit and informed them: “I want to hand myself in. I have done something stupid.

“I have been blackmailed and I’m in fear. I have done a burglary. I was tasked to do it by persons I don’t know.”

Prosecutors said an investigation was launched and it became apparent that Cooke, a serving officer with more than 10 years’ experience and who had earned three commendations, had gained unauthorised access to the computer system to research the Maesteg property.

Blackmailed

When interviewed, Cooke said he thought he was being blackmailed because of his involvement with a woman he had met online and that he believed a Bridgend-based organised crime group (OCG) may have been behind it.

He added that he had been instructed to leave the safe on wasteland.

In a second interview, he claimed he was being blackmailed because he had sent sexual pictures to a man. He added that he had not handed over any money.

The court heard that the safe, which also contained items of sentimental value, has not been recovered.

During the investigation it emerged that Cooke had also tried to steal a safe from another property in Bridgend a month earlier.

Last December he was among officers who were called out to reports of a sudden death at an address in Pencoed in which a safe containing £16,870 was legitimately taken into custody while inquiries remained outstanding.

A police constable was tasked with returning the safe to the dead man’s sister but Cooke took it upon himself to give it back and, while at the woman’s home on January 4, he stole her front door key, the court heard.

Four days later he called her pretending to be a man called Thomas from the Coroner’s Office and said she urgently needed to go to the hospital mortuary because there was an “issue” with her brother’s post-mortem examination.

He used the diversion to attempt to gain entry to her home but was unsuccessful because he was seen on CCTV wearing black clothing and carrying a black rucksack.

Keys

When police searched Cooke’s home in Hirwaun, Aberdare, they recovered the rucksack with the stolen key in a side pocket.

Cooke later admitted burglary, attempted burglary, theft of a key, unauthorised access to computer material with intent, and corrupt or improper use of police powers.

He initially denied the burglary because he claimed he was acting under duress but the Crown did not accept his version of events and he later abandoned that line of defence.

In a victim personal statement, the woman whose home was burgled said: “He (Cooke) has taken away my self-esteem, confidence and trust in the law. I don’t feel safe in my own home. In all honesty, I feel like a prisoner in my own home.”

Rosamund Rutter, defending, said: “He is ashamed of his behaviour. What he has done is inexcusable. He accepts he has brought the police service into disrepute and has abused his position for his own personal gain.

“He has resigned from South Wales Police and has apologised to the Chief Constable. He understands he has let down his family and his former colleagues.”

Sentencing, the Recorder of Cardiff, Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke, told Cooke: “Prior to the commission of these offences you had a good character, a good career and you were held in high regard by those who knew you.

“You have thrown it all away, and by doing so you have tarnished the reputation of South Wales Police and of policing generally. However your actions are no reflection on the very many police officers who uphold the high standards that you upheld before January this year.”

Quit

South Wales Police said Cooke quit two days before an accelerated misconduct hearing on April 24 which ruled he committed gross misconduct.

Chief Constable Jeremy Vaughan said: “Ben Cooke has let himself and the police service down badly and destroyed any trust the communities of South Wales had in him as a police officer. His behaviour is wholly unacceptable.

“The vast majority of the 6,000-plus officers and staff who work for South Wales Police conduct themselves impeccably and work tirelessly to protect the public.

“Those very few who choose to breach the standards expected of them undermine the public’s trust in policing.”

He said he had written a personal letter of apology to the burglary victim.


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
1 Comment
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
3 days ago

I hope the police reimburse the various people who had property stolen while he was faking police duty. The whole sorry story does not say much for police procedure on property administration either or data security. This is an old story. I recall quite a few years ago an incident in Lancaster where a stolen bike was recovered by the police but when the owner went to collect it it had been removed (=stolen) from the police store.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.