Page last updated at 21:35 GMT, Friday, 19 June 2009 22:35 UK

Three jailed for burgling elderly

James Thomas Connors (l), Jerry Cassidy and James Connors
The judge said the burglaries were the worst he had dealt with for years

Three men who stole cash and valuables amounting to £70,000 during more than 70 burglaries targeting elderly people in England and Wales have been jailed.

James Connors, 18, James Thomas Connors, 20, and Jerry Cassidy, 29, all from Middlesex, tricked their way into homes, including 17 in Hampshire.

The men admitted conspiracy to burgle and were each sentenced to 10 years at Winchester Crown Court.

Among other areas targeted were Essex, Surrey, Leicestershire and Gwent.

Posed as police

The men posed as police officers and representatives of gas and water companies.

They carried out seven burglaries in one day at homes in Hampshire.

Elsewhere in England they carried out 14 burglaries in Essex, nine in Surrey, four in Leicestershire and three in Avon and Somerset.

They carried out two burglaries in Kent and a further two in Nottinghamshire and also targeted homes in Cumbria, Derbyshire and the Thames Valley area.

How can they do it do people like that who are elderly?
Carol Bond, victim's daughter

In Wales they carried out seven burglaries in the Gwent Police force area and 10 in South Wales.

Of the 72 elderly victims, five have since passed away, police said.

Carol Bond's mother Kathleen Renham, 88, was burgled at her home in Chandlers Ford, near Southampton, in March 2008.

The men posed as police officers, entered her home and ransacked her bedroom before stealing more than £600 from her purse. She died about six months later.

Her daughter said: "How can they do it do people like that who are elderly?

"I think it had a serious effect on her health. It wasn't the bubbly mum that we knew any more, but she could have gone on had she not been stressed by this."

'Absolutely terrified'

The court heard James Thomas Connors, of De Havilland Close, Northolt, and James Connors, of Dunbar Close, Hayes, who are cousins, and Jerry Cassidy, of Greenway, Pinner, drove around in a stolen Audi.

They wore "crude" disguises, using an old wooden police truncheon.

Det Sgt Dan Hope, from Hampshire Police, said: "They displayed no sense of shame for what they did, and remained callous and unapologetic throughout interview and court proceedings."

Carol Bond speaks about the trauma of losing her mother Kathleen Renham

Alethea Tyler, 91, was one of two women targeted in their homes near Winchester on the same day.

The pensioner had more than £700 stolen.

She said: "I was absolutely terrified. You couldn't think, you just hoped they would go quick.

"It really is despicable. I don't know how they can live with themselves."

The gang was eventually caught when the Audi was spotted being driven erratically in Scotland.

Judge Patrick Hooton described the offences as the worst set of burglaries he had dealt with for many years.

He said: "The words appalling and hideous have been used but those two words do not begin to describe what you have done.

"You have caused devastating effects to everyone who has suffered at your hands."

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