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Dornoch Cathedral among churches and schools across the Highlands targeted by thief

By Court Reporter

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A thief who attempted to break into Dornoch Cathedral and was found at Dornoch Academy 'in suspicious circumstances', will be sentenced next month on a total of 11 charges of dishonesty across the Highlands.

The attempted break-in at Dornoch Cathedral took place in February, 2022. Picture: Marion Timperley, via Wikimedia Commons.
The attempted break-in at Dornoch Cathedral took place in February, 2022. Picture: Marion Timperley, via Wikimedia Commons.

Stuart Liley targeted churches and schools across the north, Inverness Sheriff Court heard.

He was originally facing a total of 25 offences but his pleas of not guilty to the majority of them was accepted by fiscal depute Robert Weir.

Lilley's crime spree began on June 28 or 29, 2021, when he broke into the Watermill Enterprises premises at Cantray Bridge near his home in Dalcroy Green, Croy, and stole £400 in cash. His DNA was found on a tool he left behind in the premises.

He returned to the same building on August 13 that year and broke in with intent to steal.

On December 21, 2021 his next target was the Crown Church in Inverness where he stole £100. Again his DNA was found inside.

Ten days later, on December 31, 2021, he broke into St Ninian's RC Church on Huntly Street, Inverness and stole several hundreds of pounds.

On January 5, 2022, CCTV recorded him in the Barn Church, Culloden where he had later broken into a cupboard with intent to steal.

The court heard that he was particularly active between February 1 and 6, 2022.

On February 1, he was found in the Crown Primary School in circumstances where it could be inferred he intended to commit theft.

The following day, on February 2, he was again filmed attempting to break into Bowhunter Archery in Balnagowan Woods near Nairn.

Then later that day, he was found in suspicious circumstances in Dornoch Academy. On the same day or the following morning, he broke into the Mansfield Hotel, in Tain by smashing a window and stole a set of keys.

DNA from his blood once more confirmed he was the culprit.

Four days after that, he attempted to break into Dornoch Cathedral.

The court heard that the court eventually imposed a bail condition that Lilley did not enter religious premises.

But on January 12, 2023, he breached that by breaking into St Columba Church in Nairn by smashing a window with intent to steal.

Again blood found in the church was confirmed as his.

Sheriff Gary Aitken deferred sentence until July 24 for a background report on Lilley who was again remanded in custody.


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