Four prolific burglars jailed following thieving spree across Harrogate and York

A gang of “professional” burglars who targeted homes in Harrogate and York have been jailed for a combined total of 12 years following a prolific thieving spree.

By Court Reporter
Friday, 11th March 2022, 4:47 pm
Updated Friday, 11th March 2022, 4:48 pm

Chaz England, 21, Bailey Townend, 19, Nathan Lofthouse, 20, and Ainsley West, 20, stole tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of high-value goods and vehicles during the 12-month crime spree – as well as a police officer’s warrant card and top-secret NHS documents, York Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Michael Cahill said Townend and others began their spree by stealing two vehicles including a £14,000 Mercedes Benz, before burgling a couple’s home in Cornwall Drive, York, on August 3, 2020, when they stole three handbags and cash which they dumped in nearby woods.

Townend was later spotted in the Mercedes which was involved in a police chase.

Sign up to our daily Harrogate Advertiser Today newsletter

A gang of “professional” burglars who targeted homes in Harrogate and York have been jailed for a combined total of 12 years

The vehicle was later found abandoned.

On August 21 last year, they stole an £11,000 motorbike from outside a block of flats in South Park Road, Harrogate.

CCTV coverage showed the men snapping the steering lock and wheeling it away.

The male owner was in bed at the time of the theft at about 3.10am.

Chaz England (pictured), Bailey Townend, Nathan Lofthouse and Ainsley West have been jailed for a combined total of 12 years following a prolific thieving spree

Just before Christmas in 2019, Lofthouse and others broke into the home of an NHS worker and her family in Harrogate.

The victim’s son spotted a figure lurking in the kitchen but thought it was his brother.

He returned to the living room but when his dog “bolted” away, he went back into the kitchen and noticed the utility-room door and the front door were open.

“He could hear someone running up the gravel path,” said Mr Cahill.

Chaz England, Bailey Townend, Nathan Lofthouse (pictured) and Ainsley West have been jailed for a combined total of 12 years following a prolific thieving spree

“He went upstairs and told his parents.”

His mother noticed her laptop bag was missing.

Inside the bag were sensitive NHS documents with information about people applying for NHS roles and security codes for an NHS building.

“The theft of the bag had repercussions at work as (the victim) had to report the theft to her manager,” said Mr Cahill.

Chaz England, Bailey Townend (pictured), Nathan Lofthouse and Ainsley West have been jailed for a combined total of 12 years following a prolific thieving spree

“That led to the (victim) having to go through an NHS Government (data) breach investigation.”

Later that same day, Lofthouse and two other men snuck into a family home in Harrogate and stole the keys to a Jaguar parked outside.

The female victim’s son noticed the Jaguar’s lights being switched on.

His mother went outside and opened the driver’s door, but the Jaguar was reversed into another parked car on the driveway.

“(The victim) grabbed the man by the arm but he pulled away and made off,” said Mr Cahill.

“She then went back into the property and noticed two coats had been taken.

Chaz England, Bailey Townend, Nathan Lofthouse and Ainsley West (pictured) have been jailed for a combined total of 12 years following a prolific thieving spree

"They were later found near her side gate.”

The key to the Jaguar had been stolen from a box on a window ledge next to the front door.

On Boxing Day 2019, England and others stole a Ford Transit van from outside a couple’s home in Stonefall Avenue, Harrogate.

The victims were away on a Christmas holiday at the time and returned to find the glass in their back door had been smashed and intruders had stolen their vehicle, as well as a £200 iPhone, £800 in cash, a £300 chain saw, five wrist watches, two designer handbags and the keys to the van from within the property.

Police later found the abandoned vehicle which had a flat tyre.

Two days later, three men turned up at the Acklam Beta Van Centre in Killinghall and prised a metal shutter open with tools.

They ran off when the alarm sounded.

England was arrested on December 30, 2019, when police searched his home in Harrogate and found a stun gun and a small amount of cannabis in his bedroom.

On August 2, 2020, West and others stole number plates from a woman’s Fiat Punto parked outside her home in Leeds.

The following morning, they stole a Fiat Doblo van parked near the victim’s home in Park Avenue, Knaresborough.

He woke to find his front door slightly ajar and discovered that his £2,500 van was missing.

The van was found in Beeston the following day.

The number plates on the van were those stolen from the woman’s Fiat in Leeds two days earlier.

The following day, West and others broke into a police officer’s home in Danum Road, York, and stole her warrant card, two purses, her make-up mirror and £33 cash.

She had left them in her handbag in the kitchen but when she woke the following morning, it had vanished.

The thieves also stole her husband’s wallet from the kitchen.

The wallet contained his bank cards and driving licence.

Townend, of Knaresborough Road, Harrogate ultimately admitted two counts of burglary, three counts of stealing a vehicle and possessing cannabis.

England, of Walworth Avenue, Harrogate, admitted burglary, theft of a motor vehicle and attempted burglary, as well as possessing cannabis and a prohibited weapon.

Lofthouse, of Franklin Road, Harrogate, admitted two counts of burglary and attempted theft of a vehicle.

West, Cross Green, Leeds, admitted two counts of burglary, theft of a vehicle and handling stolen goods, namely the car-registration plates.

Townend had 36 previous convictions for 72 offences, the majority for theft but also three previous burglaries.

Lofthouse had a previous conviction for dangerous driving and failing to provide a specimen for analysis from February last year.

West had 25 previous convictions for 57 offences including burglary, theft from a dwelling and dangerous driving.

Shufqat Khan, for Townend, said his unemployed client led a “chaotic” lifestyle and had used cannabis from a young age.

Ian Hudson, for Lofthouse, said his client, who worked for a fencing-and-decking company in Harrogate, had since turned his life around.

Chris Dunn, for England, conceded that his client had embarked on a “ridiculous” thieving spree.

Ashleigh Metcalfe, for West, said the father-of-two and former waiter had since moved to Leeds to get away from “associates” in Harrogate.

Judge Sean Morris, the Recorder of York, jailed Townend for four years and three months.

West was jailed for four years and seven months, England for two years and four months, and Lofthouse was imprisoned for 17 months.