Three Hyndburn men who embarked on a burglary and car theft spree across East Lancashire have been locked up for more than 10 years.
Dylan Williams, Jacob Fisher and Benjamin Cross raided 11 homes while their owners slept and stole valuable vehicles and electrical items, a court heard.
Peter Gilmour, prosecuting, told Preston Crown Court how the offences were committed over a three-week period in August 2016 and that many of the homes had children living inside.
He told the court: “They used the same modus operandi in all of them. They entered people’s houses at night while they were at home asleep.
“In all cases but two exceptions they gained entry by insecure doors.
“Once inside they took the keys to the vehicles and then used those keys to take the vehicles themselves. They took a total of nine cars and a scooter.
“They also stole other high value items including laptops, mobile phones and watches.”
Fisher, 19, and Cross, 24, were arrested while travelling in a convoy of stolen vehicles on August 27, 2016.
They were found with stolen bank cards, driving licences and keys to a BMW and Vauxhall Insignia.
Mr Gilmour told the court that an examination of their mobiles phones showed that they were in contact with each other both before and after the burglaries.
Their phones also contained text messages about ‘disposing of the vehicles and items stolen in burglary’.
Williams, 23, was arrested two weeks later on September 13 after committing another burglary and vehicle theft and was stopped in a stolen Suzuki Swift with false number plates.
The court heard that officers found a ‘burglary kit’ in the car which contained hooded tops, gloves, broken pieces of a spark plug, a screwdriver and a face mask.
Victim impact statements read out in court told how the burglary victims were left suffering from ‘depression and anxiety’ with many having trouble sleeping and ‘fearing’ leaving their houses empty.
The burglaries took place in Hapton, Burnley, Clitheroe and Colne.
Williams, of Oswald Street, Accrington, Fisher, of James Avenue, Great Harwood, and Cross, of Hermitage Street, Rishton, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal.
Williams also pleaded guilty to separate offences of burglary and theft of motor vehicles and was jailed for five years and four months.
Fisher pleaded guilty to separate offences of possessing crack cocaine, cocaine, heroin and cannabis with intent to supply and was given a 40-month sentence at a young offenders institute.
Cross, who was previously jailed for two years for two of the burglaries in the conspiracy, was given a further two-year jail sentence.
Judge James Adkin said it was ‘serious, organised and lucrative criminality’.
Sentencing, he said: “Burglary of dwelling houses are always serious offences because of the sense of intrusion for the families that live in those homes, knowing that one or more of you crept around those houses stealing from the premises.”
Fisher trying to dispose of £3k drugs when police arrived
Jacob Fisher was caught trying to dispose of more than £3,000 worth of drugs when the police raided his house, a court heard.
Officers executed a warrant at his home on Higher Antley Street in Accrington on September 9, 2015.
Peter Gilmour, prosecuting, told the court how Fisher was the only person in the property at the time and was seen by an officer to throw a blue bag out of an upstairs window.
The court heard how the bag contained £3,245 worth of drugs, including 51 wraps of heroin worth £1,230, 38 wraps of crack cocaine worth £760, 78 wraps of cocaine worth £780 and 25 snap bags of cannabis worth £475.
Another £1,200 worth of cocaine and cannabis were found inside the house along with snap bags, scales and two mobile phones.
Mr Gilmour said Fisher, who was 17 at the time, accepted owning one of the phones which contained ‘calender reminders referring to quantities of drugs’.
However the defendant denied owning the other phone which included drug-related messages with a ‘known drug user’.
Fisher told police that ‘other individuals were involved in the drugs and that he was responsible for storing them.
Background to ‘despicable’ offending
Defence barrister Giles Grant said warehouse worker Dylan Williams was motivated by money and that it was a ‘short period of prolific and serious offending’.
He told the court: “He’s a young man aged 23. There was no sign, warning or build up to this level of offending.
“He has come to understand that what he has done is wrong and the effects upon the victims.
“When he fell, he fell quickly and hard.”
Richard Prew, defending Cross, said he ‘lost his way and went completely off the rails’ after a relationship break-up.
He said: “He accepts that these were despicable offences committed in a short period of time, whether it was the thrill or simply the financial gain.
“He doesn’t have any drink or drug problems but he accepts that he got involved. He doesn’t seek to blame anyone but himself. He knows what he did was absolutely wrong.”
Naakesha Sesh, defending Fisher, said he was 17 at the time of the drugs offences and was turning 18 during the period of the burglaries.
She told the court that Fisher moved into a flat on his own, was using cannabis and ‘became involved with serious drug dealers’.
She said: “He didn’t realise at first what was happening, effectively that his flat was being used by those more seriously involved in drug dealing as somewhere to not only take the drugs but also to carry out dealing.”