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Drug fiend raided Perthshire Christian youth camp and stole safe with 38 kids’ mobile phones

John Forbes was just three weeks out of jail when he carried out a midnight raid on the Teen Ranch activities centre near Inchture.

John Forbes at an earlier court hearing.
John Forbes at an earlier court hearing.

A drug fiend broke into a Christian youth camp in rural Perthshire and made off with a safe filled with young campers’ mobile phones.

One-man crimewave John Forbes was just three weeks out of jail when he carried out a midnight raid on the Teen Ranch activities centre near Inchture.

Perth Sheriff Court heard the 43-year-old loaded an office safe into a stolen car, before making his getaway.

The parent of one youngster helped police track down the vehicle using their Find My Phone app.

Forbes appeared in the dock and admitted breaking into the camp at Ballindean on April 12.

He further pled guilty to further break-ins on the same morning at the Carmichael Care Home, Dundee, and the Birkhill Inn.

Serial thief John Forbes faces another prison sentence.

Sentence was deferred for background reports, despite Forbes’ plea to be locked up there and then.

“I just want to do my time and get out,” he said.

Crept into care home

The court heard how Forbes forced open a ground floor window at the Carmichael Care Home on Dunhope Terrace just before 1am on April 12.

He snatched a set of car keys from the window ledge and used them to unlock a Fiat Ducato van parked outside.

Carmichael Care Home, Dudhope Terrace, Dundee.
Forbes struck at the Carmichael Care Home, Dudhope Terrace, Dundee, in the early hours of April 12 2024.

A member of staff at the 24-hour facility went into the office and noticed the window was open.

When she went to shut it, she saw Forbes driving off in her boss’s vehicle, which had Carmichael Care Group printed along the side.

Police were contacted.

Perthshire youth camp theft

The fiscal depute said Forbes parked up outside the Teen Ranch centre just before 5am.

The residential camp – described as an interdenominational Christian youth activity centre – is built around a Georgian mansion and has space for up to 68 campers aged from 10 to 17.

The Teen Ranch (Scotland) activities centre near Inchture.

Forbes got into the property through a side door.

He used a flat-bladed tool to break the frame of a locked office door inside.

“The accused stole a black safe containing 38 mobile phones belonging to camp participants, along with three wallets, headphones and a set of keys for a red Honda CR-V,” the prosecutor said.

Forbes then loaded the stolen goods into the Honda before accelerating away, leaving the Carmichael van behind.

Stole TV from pub

About an hour later, he pulled up outside the Birkhill Inn restaurant on Coupar Angus Road.

Forbes clambered onto a ground floor level roof and slipped in through an open window.

The Birkhill Inn on Coupar Angus Road.

He went into a staff room and pulled a television from the wall.

He put it into the boot of the stolen car before driving off.

Police officers arrived just after 7am and were able to identify Forbes from CCTV.

Find My Phone

At 7.45pm, the manager of Teen Ranch noticed the Carmichael Care Home van parked outside.

She phoned the care home and it was quickly established that the vehicle had been stolen.

The manager then noticed that the office safe was missing, as well as the red Honda.

“She contacted the police and the parents of the campers to notify them that their phones had been stolen,” the fiscal depute said.

“The parent of one child used the Find My Phone app and advised police that it was in the Lochee Road area.”

Multiple police units were deployed to track down the car.

iphone app
The stolen car was tracked using the Find My Phone app.

Officers followed locations given to them by the camper’s mum, as she followed the vehicle’s progress on her phone app.

The car was eventually found abandoned, with Forbes having fled with the key.

Arrangements were made to seize the vehicle and deliver the phones back to the children at the ranch.

Later that morning, a member of the public alerted police to a number of random items found dumped in a nearby forest.

They included the wallets and headphones taken from Teen Ranch.

A few days later, Forbes was spotted by police walking through the Hilltown area of Dundee.

He was arrested, but refused to engage with a police interview.

‘Drugs on his mind’

Solicitor Darren Bell, defending, said when his client was released from prison on March 12, “he was not in a fit sate of mind.”

He said: “He had drugs on his mind. That was a major factor in his offending.”

Mr Bell said Forbes now realises he needs help and support.

“He does not remember much about the events, due to him taking illicit drugs.

“Mr Forbes does show remorse and he apologises greatly for his actions.”

Forbes appeared at Perth Sheriff Court.

Sheriff William Wood said: “Mr Forbes accepts that a further custodial sentence is inevitable, and it has to be standing his record.

“But the question is what happens to him once he’s released?”

Forbes appeared to question the need to defer sentence for background reports.

“I don’t need social workers, I can do it myself,” he said.

“There’s a lot of things going on in my life that I don’t want to discuss here, at this moment in time.

“But I don’t need no supervised release order. I just want to do my time and get out.”

The sheriff replied: “What I don’t want happening is for you coming back here within a month of your release, which is what happened this time.

“That is no way to live.”

Sentence was deferred until the end of the month.

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