Three prolific burglars who targeted rural affluent homes have been jailed for a combined 13 years after their thieving spree came to a sticky end.
Kevin Morris, 24, Wesley Waterworth, 25, and Jonathan Bennett, 24, had sought rich pickings in remote Harrogate villages but were ultimately undone by mobile-phone evidence which pinned them to the scene of their latest house raid in Fewston while the owners were away on holiday.
The three men, who used walkie-talkies to co-ordinate the burglary, broke into a large detached home overlooking Fewston Reservoir in November last year after forcing their way through a window.
They scarpered before police arrived after an alarm sounded.
They returned the following day and left relatively empty-handed save some costume jewellery, a bottle of perfume and a pillow case, but were arrested after cell-site analysis of their mobiles proved they were in the area at the time of the raids.
Bennett, from Leeds, admitted conspiracy to burgle but Waterworth and Morris protested their innocence.
A jury found them guilty on Monday following a week-long trial, but their conviction for an ultimately-fruitless raid was just the tip of the iceberg because all three defendants faced a host of outstanding convictions awaiting sentence.
Prosecutor David Hall said mobile phones had been left behind by the men near the scene of the Fewston burglary on November 27. In addition, Morris’s DNA, a SIM card and a top-up receipt for a mobile phone were found in a hired VW van which was abandoned near the scene.
During sentencing on Tuesday, window cleaner Morris, of Grantley Drive, Harrogate, also faced two counts of stealing expensive jewellery in the summer of 2014 and one of handling stolen goods.
Mr Hall said Morris stole three rings worth over £7,500 while working for a respectable window-cleaning firm in Harrogate. He was nailed after being reported by one of his colleagues.
The rings were said to hold “deep” sentimental value to the two female victims, one of whom had an engagement ring stolen.
Waterworth, of Avenue Grove, Harrogate, faced two outstanding indictments for previous offences including inflicting grievous bodily harm on his former partner, whom he throttled and punched repeatedly before dragging her across the house by her hair.
She ended up in Harrogate Hospital after suffering bruising, two facial fractures, carpet burns and swelling to her eye and cheek.
When Waterworth was arrested for that offence he was found with four grams of cocaine. He was on a suspended sentence at the time for possessing an offensive weapon.
The court heard that in April this year, Waterworth was given a suspended prison sentence after threatening a man with a large knife during an altercation outside the Rehab bar in Harrogate.
Waterworth had 19 previous convictions for 29 offences including burglary and driving matters.
Morris, a self-styled boxer, had 25 previous convictions for 54 offences including violence and burglary including a previous house raid he had planned with Waterworth.
Bennett, a burly former drug addict, had 33 previous convictions for 55 offences including public disorder and failing to surrender.
He is also awaiting what is due to be a very long sentence for a separate burglary at an affluent home in Knaresborough - said to be much more serious due to the level of aggravation - after being convicted of the offence at Bradford Crown Court.
Judge Paul Batty QC said he had decided to hand out “deterrent” sentences because people living in rural locations were growing increasingly worried about their homes being attacked by roving gangs from towns and cities.
He said the couple in Fewston had been “deeply upset” by the ransacking of their home.“You all operated as a gang with premeditation and organisation,” added Mr Batty. “It was professionally planned but executed in a ham-fisted fashion.”
Bennett was jailed for 32 months. Waterworth was jailed for five-and- a-half years and slammed by Mr Batty for the “vicious” attack on his ex-partner, whom he had treated like a “rag doll”.
Morris, who was said to be from a very respectable family, was given a five-year jail sentence.