This is the shocking moment a trusted police officer stole a bag of £2 coins from a vulnerable widower he was called on to help.
David Bunting, a Greater Manchester Police constable with more than 20 years’ experience, attended the man’s bungalow with paramedics because he was in ‘a dire medical situation’, a court was told.
His family had raised urgent concerns over his welfare and dialled 999.
The 44-year-old, who lives alone in Fitton Hill, Oldham, had ‘taken an overdose’ of tablets and had a knife, the court heard.
He was ‘bleeding profusely’.
The footage, recorded on a CCTV system the victim had set up to watch over his living room, shows Bunting wearing blue gloves standing beside the victim as he’s assessed by two paramedics.
He waits until the paramedics help the man up from a chair and walk him outside to an ambulance.
Bunting, who has now been jailed, is then shown to calmly reach down to a coffee table and swipe the bag, which contained £70 in coins.
He puts the bag in a pocket of his trousers, then walks out.
The victim, a father-of-two with seven grandchildren who the M.E.N. isn’t identifying, only realised the money was missing when he was discharged from hospital the following day – and checked his CCTV.
He suffers from mental health problems and showed the footage to a neighbour to double check what he was seeing before he alerted police, Preston Crown Court was told today.
Bunting, 49, of Shawclough Road, Rochdale, was subsequently arrested in February.
He appeared at Preston Magistrates Court in March and pleaded guilty to one count of theft from a dwelling.
Last month he was sentenced to three months in prison, but an appeal against the sentence was lodged immediately.
But after hearing the facts and mitigation at Preston Crown Court, Judge Beverley Lunt, sitting with two magistrates, dismissed the appeal and Bunting is now serving the three month sentence.
“This offence, being such a gross breach of trust, it could undermine the trust that all members of the public put in the police,” she said.
The judge said the victim was ‘shocked to see a police officer in full uniform stealing the money as he left’.
“He had to get a neighbour to check what he was seeing,” Judge Lunt said.
“The whole purpose of him [Bunting] being there was to help. That makes this theft from a vulnerable man all the more serious.”
Judge Lunt ruled the three month sentence ‘was not wrong in principal and not manifestly excessive’. “We are entirely satisfied appropriate punishment can only be achieved with an immediate prison sentence,” she told Bunting.
A keen fisherman, the court heard the victim had been saving up for a membership with Saddleworth and District Angling Society.
Barrister Holly Nelson, outlining the facts, said: “He [Bunting] allows the paramedics to go, bends down and picks up £70 in cash stored under a coffee table in the living room.
“He puts it into his trouser leg pocket. Nobody at that stage suspected a thing.
“The victim was in a dire medical situation.
“Without the CCTV being there, blame could have fallen on the other officer who was there, or the two paramedics.”
The victim watched in court as Bunting was led away to serve his sentence and told the M.E.N. outside: “I was shocked and disgusted that a police officer could do this.
“It made me sick. It feels like a dream – a bad dream.”
He said he had no recollection of harming himself on the day.
“It is just disgusting. Absolutely disgusting,” he said.
“The police officer was in a position of trust and was there to try to help.
“The public rely on police officers.”
His family told the M.E.N.:
“We just couldn’t believe what we were seeing.
“For a policeman to steal anyway is just awful, but to steal from a man who was in distress, in the circumstances, is dreadful. He just saw the cash and helped himself.”
The court heard Bunting, a police officer since 1998, was now facing the sack.
Nicholas Walker, appearing for Bunting, said the offence would ‘appal the policing community, as well as the community at large’.
He argued the sentencing magistrates had put ‘too much weight on sending out a message’ and not enough on Bunting’s background and mental health.
Mr Walker, who urged the court to suspend the sentence, said Bunting was mentally ill now and at the time, an illness he said which stemmed from his ‘public service itself’.
The court heard the officer suffers from PTSD and a major depressive illness.
“He was not in his right mind at the time,” Mr Walker said.
“But for his illness, he would not have acted how he did.”
He also pointed to events in his private life and ‘personal problems and tragedies’.
Mr Walker said Bunting was injured in 2006 whilst rescuing a person from a house fire and more recently, assaulted by a man with a sword. Later that same year, four masked men attacked him as he tried to recover a knife from a car.
Testimonies from senior officers pointed to an officer who was ‘always in the thick of it…and who put himself in danger’.
Mr Walker, who said Bunting tried to conceal his illness from work and loved ones, said: “None of that excuses what he did, but it does explain. It was wholly out of character. He is deeply ashamed of what he has done. He is still ill and medicated.”
Doctors, the court heard, said the theft was linked to his state of mind.
But Judge Lunt said he had previously decided to stop taking prescribed medication and ‘could have done it differently’.
Bunting was also ordered to pay the victim the £70 back in compensation, alongside court costs of £85 and a £122 victim surcharge.
In a statement, GMP said:
“On Friday, February 21, 2020, police were called to reports of a theft after a police officer responded to a concern for welfare incident the previous day in Oldham. GMP’s Professional Standards Branch were informed and began an investigation, which is currently ongoing.
“On Friday, July 10, 2020, David Bunting, 49, of Shawclough Road, Rochdale, was sentenced to three months in jail after pleading guilty to one count of theft.
“Bunting is suspended from duty.”