Woman told police ‘she did not know why she stole items’

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A Romanian woman caught stealing a bra in Ballymena “disgraced her family” in her homeland who learned of her case through the internet, a court heard on Thursday.

Simona Nicoleta Rostas (32), of Toome Road, Ballymena, admitted the the theft of the £14 “lingerie” item from Marks & Spencer in the town’s Fairhill Shopping Centre and the theft of four pairs of trousers worth £45 from the town’s H&M store.

Charges that she stole shoes valued at £45 from Marks & Spencer on an earlier date were dropped by prosecutors as was a charge that she and her husband - meat factory worker Remus Berchi (46) - both handled 118 items of ‘stolen’ clothing.

Berchi had been told at a previous court that charge - the only one he faced - was being withdrawn.

An earlier sitting of Ballymena Magistrates Court was told the 118 items were worth £1,100 and were found in their home after Rostas was caught shoplifting.

At the time a defence solicitor said they were gifts for family members in Romania and the reason why tags were still on them was because that was the practice in their culture to show they were not second-hand.

At the court on Thursday a prosecutor said security staff at Marks & Spencer saw Rostas leaving with stolen goods and a search of a large handbag revealed items of stolen “lingerie” and also items which had been taken from H&M.

During a police interview the defendant said she did not know why she had taken the items.

Defence solicitor Stewart Ballentine said the 118 items found in Rostas’ home had been purchased to send back to Romania.

He said Rostas was now remorseful and her “well respected” family in Romania had learned of the case through the internet and they were “devastated” by the court case which had “disgraced her family”.

Mr Ballentine said Rostas came to Northern Ireland in February this year to join her husband and she had no record either here or in Romania.

He said Rostas felt she had let herself, her husband and her family down.

Fining Rostas £200, District Judge Peter King said it was regrettable that as a result of her offending her husband “fell under suspicion” and there was a “significant impact” on the reputation of her and her husband both here and abroad.