A HOMELESS creep has been slammed behind bars after stealing dummies directly out of babies' mouths in a string of thefts lasting more than six months.

Essex Police launched an investigation following a series of reports of a man approaching people with babies and removing their dummies.

Four incidents were reported to officers between February 10 and August 7 in the Staple Tye Shopping Centre, Woodcroft, Parsloe Road and Cooks Spinney areas.

In a number of the incidents, the dummy was taken directly out of the children's mouths while on one occasion a child was also assaulted.

As part of their investigation, police officers released an image of a man officers wanted to speak to in connection with the incidents.

He was soon identified as 23-year-old Josh Guilder, of no fixed address.

Guilder was arrested on August 15 and charged with five counts of theft, three counts of common assault, and a public order offence.

He was convicted of all the offences at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on November 20 and, at the same court, was sentenced to a total of a year and two months in prison on Friday, February 2.

Gazette: Case - Colchester Magistrates' CourtCase - Colchester Magistrates' Court (Image: Newsquest)

District commander for Harlow, Chief Inspector Paul Austin, said: “I know these incidents caused concern in our community and I’m pleased we’ve been able to identify the person responsible and hold him accountable.

“It can never be acceptable that people in Harlow feel concerned about going about their daily lives or with their children and my officers have worked hard to get this result.

“I want to thank the community for their support in our investigation.

"We are committed to keeping you safe and ensuring you feel safe.

“In the last year crime across the Harlow district has fallen with more than 630 fewer offences reported.

"Violent crime, sexual offences and home burglaries have all seen reductions.

“Your support is crucial in helping us bring crime down.”