Burglar gets 4 years for 140 offences

A CAREER burglar, who has committed 140 offences over the last decade, has been imprisoned for four years after breaking into homes and vehicles across the region.

Naomi Cassidy

A CAREER burglar, who has committed 140 offences over the last decade, has been imprisoned for four years after breaking into homes and vehicles across the region.

At Ipswich Crown Court yesterday drug addict Neil Charles admitted to 27 offences of conspiracy to steal, burglaries and attempted burglaries in locations across Suffolk and Norfolk, including Bury St Edmunds and Lakenheath.

Judge David Goodin also took into account a further 59 offences which Charles, 34, committed between 2005 and 2008, bringing his total number of offences to date to 140.

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Melanie Bonas, 29, of The Street, Barton Mills, who was described in court as the “getaway driver”, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal and was given a community punishment order.

The court heard how on February 28 this year a neighbour in the Moreton Hall estate in Bury St Edmunds spotted Charles get out of a Honda Civic, driven by Bonas, put on a balaclava and attempt to get into various properties by trying to open front doors. He was also seen trying car doors.

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The police were called and when they attended, found Charles, formerly of Fressingfield but who had recently been living in Lincoln, hiding in some bushes and arrested him.

Prosecuting Andrew Shaw told the court that on the way to the police station Charles said: “They all have nice houses and are well-to-do people. I will be in a council flat for the rest of my life. It is alright for some, isn't?”

Following a search of the Honda Civic, police found digital cameras, satellite navigation systems and a map with a highlighted route from his address to the estate in Bury St Edmunds, which avoided all the town's CCTV cameras. Bonas was then also arrested.

The pair were bailed but police carried out surveillance later that night and followed the culprits around Norfolk and Suffolk as they embarked on a crime spree.

After they were arrested, Charles agreed to accompany police around Suffolk to point out locations where he had committed the 59 other stealing and burglary offences in places including Tuddenham and Stowupland.

Mitigating for Charles, Hugh Vass, said: “He has already had his last chance saloon in the form of a drug treatment order, which was breached. He has been a drug addict since he was 19. He does appear to finally want to put things behind him.”

Judge David Goodin said: “Some of the offences were very seriously committed within hours of you being questioned and released on bail. House burglaries are always serious because they are an invasion of other people's property. Some of those offences came to light because you had the conscience or common sense to point them out to police officers. Whatever the reason, it indicates a degree of character. Because of that I will reduce the sentence to four years. You will serve half of that.”

In mitigation for Bonas, Joanne Eley explained that her client had become addicted to heroin after being made redundant from a job. She got involved with Charles and went along with him while he carried out the thefts.

As it was her first offence, Judge Goodin gave her a supervision order for 12 months and she was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work in the community.

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