Burglars locked up after police helicopter finds them in stream

TWO burglars who were tracked down by the police helicopter after stealing items worth thousands of pounds from homes in Herefordshire have been locked up.

Justin Leach and Christopher Brown pleaded guilty to the four burglaries near Ledbury, with items including watches, a hover board and two axes in their haul.

Naomi Nelson-Cofie, prosecuting, told Worcester Crown Court how the pair were found hiding in a stream by the police helicopter and a dog after crashing as officers gave chase.

She said it was at 4pm on August 25 when police started to receive calls about a suspicious Ford Focus driving up driveways to houses, which the judge said was the start of their “burglary expedition”.

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When confronted, the two men in the car – who later turned out to be Leach, 44, and Brown, 19 – asked for directions.

Ms Nelson-Cofie said the pair were targetting large homes around the Ledbury area, those set back from the road.

She said the homes targeted were all empty at the time and they had no CCTV systems, meaning some sort of recce must have been carried out.

Stealing from four homes, repeat offenders Leach and Brown were found to have taken handbags, a hover board, jewellery, two axes, a bowl full of coins after carrying out “messy searches”.

From one house, the owners said jewellery worth up to £25,000 was taken.

Leach, of Yarnolds Terrace, Cheltenham, also pleaded guilty to another two burglaries.

Ms Nelson-Cofie said it was on June 30 when the 83-year-old victim returned to the house in Cheltenham to find cash, a necklace, a drill and duvet had been taken.

Three days earlier, he was one of four people seen in a car linked to burglary from a rural home in Dumbleton, Gloucestershire where jewellery was also stolen.

In statements to the court, some of the victims said they no longer felt safe in their own homes and had been “violated”.

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Mahan Manu, for Leach, admitted that damage was caused but “only enough to gain entry”. While he said the searches were messy, he said there was no ransacking or soiling.

He said after Leach was released from prison for a previous offence, he set up a landscaping business. But after the coronavirus pandemic hit, he got into debt and the burglaries were a way of paying this off.

Lewis Perry, for Brown, echoed Mr Manu. But he added Brown recognised the impact on the victims and the gravity of the situation.

At Worcester Crown Court on November 4, Judge Martin Jackson said the offences were serious and the pair caused hurt to the victims.

He sentenced Brown to 876 days (more than two years) in a younger offender institute and Leach, who had a “significantly worse record”, to three years and three months in prison.

Hereford Times