A gang who burgled more than 50 homes across Lancashire and Cheshire have been jailed for more than 16 years.
Peter Clarke, James McMillan and Garry Dunkerley raided residential homes, including six in Hyndburn, and hid their ill-gotten gains inside pillow cases taken from their victims beds, a court heard.
The gang broke into homes in Accrington, Great Harwood and Clayton-le-Moors over a four-month period and stole thousands of pounds in cash, jewellery, laptops and designer sunglasses.
McMillan, 29, of Spring Street, Oldham, Dunkerley, 43, of Heron Street, Oldham and Peter Clarke, 27, of HMP Forest Bank prison, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary at Burnley Crown Court.
Jonathan Dickinson, prosecuting, told the court how Clarke was arrested in December 2013 following a burglary in Alsager, Cheshire.
Subsequent telephone analysis showed Dunkerley, and another man still wanted by police, were in the area at the time and also on other dates ‘corresponding with further burglaries’.
Mr Dickinson said with Clarke in custody, McMillan joined the operation and many of the remaining burglaries were committed using a Vauzhall Zafira, driven by Dunkerley, with false number plates.
Mr Dicksinson said the gang ‘ransacked’ the properties and the majority of items taken were jewellery with ‘either high monetary or sentimental value’.
The court heard how, after McMillan and Dunkerley were arrested, the ‘telephone jigsaw evidence became complete’ and information was passed to Lancashire Police.
Mr Dickinson said officers were already investigating a ‘series of early evening burglaries’ where the offenders had forced entry into rear patio doors or conservatories and removed items in pillow cases.
Officers were able to confirm the gang were responsible for 50 burglaries across Lancashire using mobile phone and ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) evidence.
Six of the burglaries occurred in Hyndburn with £4,200 stolen from a house on Delph Mount, Great Harwood, on November 18, 2013.
A rucksack and £1,000 cash was stolen from a house on Hazel Avenue in Clayton-le-Moors in December 2013 followed by a quantity of jewellery and a laptop from Haywood Road in Accrington in February 2014.
Three more other Accrington burglaries also took place in February including a stolen laptop from School House Lane, cash and jewellery from Craven Street and designer sunglasses from Portland Street.
Mr Dickinson said the burglary victims have been left ‘feeling defiled and the need to wash or clean their homes’.
He told the court how it also ‘shattered their confidence leaving them vulnerable and shaken’ and with a ‘fear of going out’ in future.
David Farley, defending McMillan who was jailed for six years, said he got into trouble using a loan shark and ‘acted out of desperation and made a ridiculously stupid decision.”
Dunkerley was jailed for six years.
Father-of-three Clarke was jailed for four years and eight months.
The court heard how he pleaded guilty in January last year to another count of conspiracy to commit burglary, involving two properties with 30 others being taken into account.
He was jailed for two years and four months.
Vanessa Thomson, defending Clarke, said he ‘had links’ to eight of the 50 Lancashire burglaries and said he did it to pay off a ‘drugs debt’.
Dunkerley was jailed for six years at Preston Crown Court.