A ROBBER who embarked on a spending spree after stealing £5,000 from a building society has been described as "a persistent career criminal."

Bruce Chipunza threatened two members of staff at the Saffron Building Society branch in Culver Street West, Colchester, on July 1, 2019.

Chipunza ran off but detectives scoured CCTV footage from around the town centre.

It showed him entering a hotel where he changed his clothes then took a taxi to where he was staying in Ellis Road, Clacton.

Further footage showed him leaving the address in another set of clothes, before heading to Westfield shopping centre in Stratford where he embarked on a shopping spree.

He used a cloned mobile phone in an attempt to conceal his movements but was arrested when he returned to Clacton the following day.

Chipunza denied the offence in August that year and stood trial at Chelmsford Crown Court earlier this month.

Following the two-week trial, he was convicted by a jury.

He was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for the Colchester robbery and a similar robbery he committed in Chadwell Heath, north-east London, just days before.

The court heard Chipunza, 31, had 21 previous convictions for 45 offences, including theft, burglary and fraud.

Speaking after the hearing, a spokesman for the Saffron Building Society said: “We thank the authorities for their swift and effective action to detain the thief and protect the people of Essex.

“We at Saffron Building Society are pleased with the outcome and that the perpetrator was handed an appropriate sentence for his crime.”

Investigating officer Det Constable Tim Harris said: “Chipunza is a persistent career criminal who showed no remorse for his crimes. During the trial, he heard the evidence from his victims, some of whom have been left with life-changing psychological trauma.

“We have supported them throughout the investigation and trial, and I commend them for their courage in facing him and giving evidence in court.

“Bringing him to justice has been a joint effort between Essex Police, Metropolitan Police Flying Squad and the Crown Prosecution Service.

“Detectives and evidential specialists worked diligently to piece together the overwhelming evidence linking