Jail for Harrogate man who raided £1.3m home
A burglar who raided a £1.3 million home in Harrogate stole the keys to a fleet of expensive cars and a horse box - but was caught empty-handed wandering down a main arterial road moments later.
Daniel Prague, 18, thought he was in for rich pickings when he raided the sumptuous property in the leafy village of Weeton, but succeeded only in leaving behind a trail of evidence which nailed him to the break-in.
He raided Weeton Grange in the early hours of May 25 and stole keys to a “number of motor vehicles and a horse box” while the owners, a husband and wife, were asleep.
Police, who were already looking for him for breaching a curfew, found him wandering down the A568 between Harrogate and Knaresborough.
They hauled him in for questioning but he made no comment. Even when presented with incontrovertible footprint evidence from the scene of the crime, Prague remained tight-lipped.
He finally had the good sense to plead guilty when he appeared at York Crown Court on Wednesday - and only then because he was apparently keen on going to jail.
Prosecutor Heather Gilmore said the victims, who were named in court, were asleep in bed when Prague burrowed into their home in Woodgate Lane at about 4.30am.
Their alarm went off but the husband thought it had been activated by his pets. He went downstairs to investigate and found the window to the utility room was wide open. He went outside and found the garage door was also wide open.
The keys to his cars and horse box had gone missing from the conservatory, added Ms Gilmore.
“None of the vehicles (was) stolen,” she said. “(The victim) reported the burglary to police and his wife searched the road for the missing keys.”
Meanwhile, police officers on patrol in Harrogate found Prague and his named cohort wandering alongside the A568.
They seized his trainers which were an exact match for the prints found in the victims’ utility room but Prague brazened it out, even when presented with glaring evidence.
The court heard that Prague had previous convictions for burglary and shoplifting. He was convicted of shop theft in July 2018 and burgling a house in May this year, resulting in a community order with a curfew and unpaid work.
However, he failed to do any of the unpaid work or rehabilitation requirements in keeping with the order.
Ms Gilmore said that the victim, named in court, found the whole incident “upsetting” and was now fearful of “leaving his family home alone”.
She said that a neighbour’s CCTV cameras had captured Prague creeping into Weeton Grange with a second man, who for whatever reason was never arrested or charged.
Nicholas Leadbeater, for Prague, said his client’s “mindless” break-in at Weeton Grange was followed “shortly afterwards” by his inevitable arrest “on the main road”.
He added that Prague - formerly of Avenue Grove, Harrogate - had gone to Weeton to a friend’s party earlier in the evening and had not planned the raid.
“He was in a dark place (at the time of the burglary),” said Mr Leadbeater. “He comes to court today effectively asking to be sent to prison.
“This young man at the moment has nowhere to go. He does not see himself being able to comply with any community (punishment).”
In what turned out to be a topsy-turvy criminal case, judge Simon Hickey was in mind to give Prague “one final chance” and suspend the inevitable prison sentence because of his young age and the fact that he was effectively homeless, but he was then informed of Prague’s non-compliance with his existing community order, which sealed the teenager’s fate.
Prague was jailed for 13 months.
Investigating Officer, Detective Constable Abigail Garford of North Yorkshire Police’s Criminal Investigation Department, said after the court date: “This burglary has left the victims feeling vulnerable in their own home at a time that they were already under a lot of strain due to illness. They felt that if it hadn’t been for the alarm they had set that night, the consequences could have been far greater.
“This case demonstrates how advancements in forensic analysis are helping us to link offenders to their crime and prove their guilt, even when they continue to maintain their innocence.
“I am pleased with the sentence Prague has received and think it reflects the seriousness of this type of crime, which has a devastating impact on victims and leaves them feeling unsafe long after the initial incident. I hope this sentence offers reassurance that we are committed to bringing offenders to justice.”