July 2003

B&B owner spied on naked guests & possession of indecent images of children

copping

A “Peeping Tom” hotel owner filmed his guests using the bathroom whilst naked with a secretive surveillance camera.

Thomas Copping, 58, drilled a hole for a lens in the bathroom ceiling at his luxury Georgian manor in the Brecon Beacons, mid Wales.

He recorded guests using a studio in the attic for 20 months, but was eventually found out by a man who spotted the camera lens as he brushed his teeth.

At court on Friday, Copping was given a three-year community rehabilitation order and told to sign up to a sex offenders programme for five years.

Merthyr Crown Court heard how Copping rigged the set-up at his Glynderi B&B, at rural Talyllyn near Brecon, to film hundreds of guests.

But an “eagle-eyed” customer from Plymouth spotted the secret camera “twinkling and flickering” as he brushed his teeth before bed.

Hilary Roberts, prosecuting, said: “He was surprised and with the aid of a torch he could see there was a camera aiming towards the toilet, sink and bath.

“The next morning he and other guests in his party climbed into the attic where they found the camera, circuit board and cabling.”

Police officers found the camera was connected to monitors and recording machines, 30 yards away in the attic of the main house.

Copping also had an “electronic workshop” in the cellar and a computer with which he could copy the secret films on to a CD or DVD.

Detective Constable William Jones said the camera had been installed first in a bathroom in the main house and later moved to the three-bedroom coach house.

The former Merchant Navy officer was described as a “brave mariner, a caring father and a pillar of the community” by Tom Crowther, defending.

But Copping is now being treated for alcoholism and is seeing a psychiatrist, he said.

The married father-of-two admitted eight charges of taking indecent pictures of children and two others of making indecent pictures of children.

Judge Eleri Rees said she felt “great sadness” to see a man of such character before her court.

She told Copping: “This harks back to the old peeping Tom days but with a very much higher degree of sophistication.

“The only purpose for what you did was to see people unclothed.

“Your victims were unaware they were being filmed but they now know and the damage is that they feel anxiety, embarrassment and humiliation.”

She said it was in the public interest that he receive treatment rather than a jail sentence.

Copping’s computer and camera equipment were also seized and he was ordered to pay £160 costs.