A soldier has walked free from court after breaking into a Chelmsford mosque and stealing a Koran.
Lance Corporal Liam King, 22, of Eastwood Park, Great Baddow, was handed a 12-month jail term, but suspended for two years, at Chelmsford Crown Court today (December 1) for burglary. He was also given a one month jail term, suspended for two years, for a charge of criminal damage.
The Afghanistan veteran, who serves in the Mortar Platoon of the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, was seen on CCTV trying to break into the Jamia Masjid Mosque in Parkway on Sunday, November 24, last year.
He is seen on CCTV again on Monday, December 16, breaking into the mosque and returning with the £25 holy book. He is seen with two others but only King has appeared before the courts.
King was due to stand trial four weeks ago but changed his pleas to guilty at the eleventh hour.
The Chronicle published CCTV footage from the incidents that week as well as a photo of King wearing an Osama Bin Laden mask while on a stag party in Amsterdam.
Sentencing him today, Mr Recorder Rex Bryan said: “I am going to treat you as being guilty of two pieces of effectively mindless vandalism aggravated by the fact that this is a place of worship.”
Defence barrister Gavin Burrell said his client was drunk during both incidents, and had started drinking more already after returning from Afghanistan, after his grandfather died and after his family were caught up in a road accident.
King does not know where the stolen Koran is and was not the person who left the mosque holding the book.
He was also ordered to a 24-month supervision order, which will include an alcohol intervention course, 100 hours of unpaid work to be completed within 12 months, to pay £1,200 costs, £175 compensation to the mosque and a £100 victim surcharge.
Also sitting in court today alongside King’s family was a founding member of the mosque, Pakistani muslim Sohail Termezi, who moved in next door to King’s family in 1971.
“I was shocked, dismayed and disappointed that someone from that family from that background had done something like that,” said Mr Termezi while speaking to the Chronicle, who wrote a two-page letter to the court in support of Mr King.
“But he has been massively remorseful. I don’t judge people but he knows what he has done. He wants to go down and see them at the mosque and say sorry face to face.”
Mr Termezi, who made clear he came to the court by “his own volition”, added: “We’re a very tolerant religion and we are very forgiving because that is what the teachings of Islam are all about.”