BUNGLING burglars who raided Swindon’s Museum of Computing were stopped with a bulky typewriter around 350yds away from the scene of their crime.

Three men admitted stealing more than £2,500-worth of computer equipment and games consoles from the Theatre Square museum.

But Swindon Magistrates Court heard the young trio, James Farrington, Jake Marsh and Reece Pickett, felt they had been coerced into stealing from the Museum of Computing on November 27.

Museum director Phil Compton said in a victim statement read out in court that stolen tablet computers had not been returned, meaning the charity was unable to teach programming to Swindon children.

Pauline Lambert, prosecuting, told magistrates that Pickett, 19, of Stadium View and 18-year-old Marsh, of Groundwell Road, had been picked up by police after being spotted on Lincoln Street, around a fifth of a mile from the museum.

They had entered the museum through a basement fire door, which they claimed had been left unlocked.

“They were carrying a large bag between them. They were searched and Marsh was found to have the screwdriver on him. At the time he is searched he says he’s got it there for his protection,” Ms Lambert said.

Police at the scene recovered an Alcatel computer and PlayStation video game consoles.

Later that evening, Farrington, 19, of Groundwell Road, called 999 to confess to the burglary. He was arrested, with police finding a Samsung tablet computer and mini-keyboard that had been taken from the museum.

When they were interviewed the defendants mentioned a fourth man, who has not been arrested and who they said had planned the burglary.

Mark Glendenning, for Pickett, said his client had initially told the man he did not want to get involved. “Then there is some measure of force or duress,” he added.

The plot had been doomed to failure: “It’s three lads, early in the morning, laden down with rucksacks and bags for life.

“They’ve taken an antiquated typewriter thinking it has some value. It has no value.”

Defending, Tony Nowogrodzki said Farrington, who has Aspergers, had fallen in with the wrong crowd after moving from his family home to the town centre. “This was an amateurish burglary to say the least, occasioned in the night, carrying large items in the town centre. Even if they had not bumped into the police there was all the CCTV in the town centre and it wouldn’t have taken very much to identify them..

“He is very remorseful for what happened. He’s ashamed and his family are ashamed to be in court. They are not people who come into this place habitually.”

Sam Arif, for Marsh, who has learning difficulties, said her client had also been under duress from the fourth man: “There may well have been some degree of planning, but from my client’s point of view it’s unsophisticated.”

Farrington and Pickett were each sentenced to a 12 month community order. They must complete 20 rehabilitation days and spend 36 hours at an attendance centre. The pair must pay an £85 victim surcharge.

Marsh, who also admitted going equipped after police found a screwdriver in his possession, will be sentenced on January 16. Magistrates ordered a pre-sentencing reportand bailed Marsh for his next hearing.