Page last updated at 16:32 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Two jailed for 'nastiest' crimes

Two burglars who preyed on elderly and vulnerable people across three counties have been jailed.

John Cawley, 32, from London, and Michael Ward, 27, from Manchester, were told by a judge they were "the meanest and nastiest offences he had heard".

Cawley, jailed for seven years, and Ward, who was jailed for four, picked on residents aged in their 80s and 90s.

Luton Crown Court heard on some occasions they posed as water company officials to trick victims.

You just have to read their statements to know how dramatically this affects their lives
Judge Andrew Bright

Prosecutor Alan Landsbury said other gang members would search bedrooms for cash and jewellery, while the householder was distracted.

Judge Andrew Bright QC said: "I have counted more than 15 separate burglaries or attempts committed on 24 April this year.

"To target elderly, infirm and vulnerable people are about the meanest and nastiest offences I have ever come across.

"They are soft targets who have valuable items lying around, often of great sentimental value.

"Very often they have not got all their faculties, which you know reduces the prospect of you being apprehended.

"You just have to read their statements to know how dramatically this affects their lives."

Mr Landsbury said the raids began in the morning of 24 April at Loughton in Essex where the victim was an 87-year-old woman with dementia.

However, they were disturbed by a neighbour and left empty handed.

Foiled by neighbours

They carried out further raids in Stevenage and Hitchin in Hertfordshire taking cash and jewellery before moving on to several towns in Bedfordshire including Sandy and Bedford by evening.

In some places, the gang was foiled by residents and neighbours.

Cawley, who denied conspiracy to burgle but was convicted at Luton Crown Court, was traced through the Shogun car he was driving which was picked up on number plate recognition cameras in Epping High Street heading towards Harlow.

Ward, who admitted conspiracy to burgle, was filmed on CCTV trying to open a safe at a supermarket and was picked out at an identity parade by one of the burglary victims.



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