A judge has jailed three members of a burglary gang who carried out a string of offences across Kirklees stealing valuable cars and property worth £150,000.
Leeds Crown Court heard today that over an eight month period ending in January this year 15 burglaries or attempted burglaries were committed at homes in Heckmondwike, Dewsbury, Gomersal, Cleckheaton, Huddersfield and Bradford among others.
Some of the gang were responsible for only a few offences but victims of the group as a whole included families away on holiday, children looking forward to Christmas and many householders who had slept through the intrusion but woke to find their homes violated.
Chris Smith, prosecuting, told the court that a young mother living in Norfolk Avenue, Sheepridge, who got up to feed her five week old baby last November was devastated to discover her home had been entered during the night. Among the property taken was her husband’s irreplaceable wedding ring.
Around 100 yards away one of their neighbours in Suffolk Rise found his £35,000 Audi had been driven off after intruders stole the keys and other properties after breaking the lock on the patio doors.
Another victim had his new VW Golf worth £25,000 for only a month before it was stolen from outside his home in Liversedge after the keys were taken from his partner’s handbag.
A family living in Spinners Avenue, Cleckheaton, discovered only days before Christmas that their £16,500 car had been stolen but there was no sign of a break-in.
They then found a bamboo pole with a hook on a parking bay opposite their garage which had been pushed through the letter box to gather the car keys inside the house.
That family said the loss of their car and the disruption meant “we now feel our safe home has been violated. This crime ruined our Christmas.”
DNA on the hook led police to Jack Trotter who was described as at the heart of the burglary conspiracy while others joined in on occasions.
Mr Smith said mole grips or pliers were used to break or remove locks at the targeted houses and one of the gang, James Lilley, even stole a pair of such mole grips from a charity where he was working on community service with “his mind clearly on future burglaries even then.”
Mr Smith added that the impact on victims had been enormous. One pregnant woman was so stressed she was afraid to sleep in her home while another man had sold his home and moved rather than remain there.
Those involved in the theft of vehicles must also have had a ready place to dispose of them since almost none were ever seen again.
Jack Trotter, 23 of Dewsbury Road, Cleckheaton was jailed for eight years three months; Lilley, 24 of Brighton Street, Heckmondwike was jailed for five years eight months and James Trotter, 26 of Wescroft Road, Bradford was jailed for three years after each admitted conspiracy to burgle.
Judge Rodney Jameson QC said the offences occurred over a substantial area and in addition to the loss of property estimated at £150,000 there was the expense of repairing damage, increasing security and the significant psychological impact on their victims.