Prolific burglars who raided seven properties across the borough while the occupants were asleep have been jailed.
Their victims included young women living on their own, a teacher, a heavily pregnant woman and families with young children and babies.
Burnley Crown Court heard how Adam Ashworth and Michael Craig stole cars, jewellery, phones, cash and computer equipment during the burglary spree over a three-night period in late October last year. They both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and Ashworth also admitted a separate theft and burglary.
The court heard how Craig, 24, later boasted to custody officers about his ‘ability as a burglar’ saying ‘I can get into any house and rob people while they are asleep without them hearing a thing’.
Kathryn Johnson, prosecuting, said the conspiracy included eight burglaries, including seven in Hyndburn, and three other attempted burglaries in Barrowford.
Miss Johnson said they ‘somehow’ managed to remove car keys hanging on a nail near the front door of a house on Water Street in Accrington and stole the victim’s Vauxhall car with power tools inside.
The same night Ashworth alone targeted two homes on Lodge Street in Accrington and made off with a laptop and wallet from one and a purse and car from another where the victim was seven month’s pregnant.
Miss Johnson said Ashworth, 25, also broke into a teacher’s house on Burnley Lane in Huncoat and stole her mobile phone before being disturbed by a dog.
The next night the pair stole electrical goods, jewellery and a handbag worth a total of £1,500 from a house on Whalley Road in Accrington after gaining entry through a secure back door.
They also forced open a house door on Westwood Street in Accrington but left empty handed after being disturbed by the owner. The final burglary happened the next evening on Garden Street in Accrington when they stole £600 cash, debit cards and a camera.
Philip Holden, defending construction worker Craig, of Scarlett Street, Burnley, said he had a ‘very unedifying criminal history’.
Robert Elias, defending Ashworth, of Burnett Street, Burnley, said it was a ‘campaign of burglary’ and he was ‘driven by his homelessness and a cocaine habit’.
Judge Simon Newell said they were ‘professional, organised and targeted burglaries’ which had caused ‘psychological damage and trauma’ to the victims.
The court heard how Ashworth had 25 convictions for 92 previous offences including 14 burglaries. Craig also had 37 convictions for 102 previous offences including 15 burglaries.
Both were jailed for six years and nine months.
Sentencing, Judge Newell said: “In a number of cases the people involved were single women, young women and with children and babies present.
“They have been disturbed and distressed by what went on.
“That phrase itself doesn’t do justice to the psychological damage and trauma they will suffer as a result of these crimes.
“It’s the loss of dignity, loss of safety and loss of independence and assurance.
“In many ways the effects upon people who’ve been burgled are equal to or greater than an actual assault.
“In one case the family are considering moving and another a teacher couldn’t work and mark pupils because she was so distressed by what went on.”
Victims of the burglaries have told of their ‘deep shock’ and ‘terror’ following the raids.
Statements read out in court by prosecutor Kathryn Johnson said some had been left struggling to sleep and others had their lives and work disrupted.
Rachel Clair, of Lodge Street, Accrington, who was pregnant at the time, told how she has been left ‘scared to death’ and ‘not feeling comfortable in her own home’ and are considering moving house.
She said she was ‘deeply shocked and upset to think that her house was enteredse’.
Teacher Margaret Evans, of Burnley Lane, Huncoat told how she had ‘difficulty sleeping because of her fear’ and ‘upset and angry and terrified of the thought that a stranger had been in her house’.
She also told how she was left unable to mark pupils GCSE assessments and was ‘anxious coming home during the dark hours’.
Iwona Dzik, also of Lodge Street, said she had to sleep downstairs after the burglary, is ‘terrified at every sound’ when she is in her house and also lost money after having to be sent home early from work the next day.