A TEAM of burglars who smashed their way into a businesswoman’s Cumbrian home and stole personal possessions – including the last photo taken of her husband before he died – have been handed jail terms totalling more than 10 years.
John McKechnie, 24, Scott Hodgeon, 30, and a 17-year-old youth travelled 100 miles from Lancashire on the morning of June 28 to target a house near Cockermouth which, Carlisle Crown Court heard, had become a “magnet for criminals”.
Equipped with face-coverings, gloves and a screwdriver, the trio broke into the unoccupied address “mob-handed”, before ransacking it during a “destructive” search. In less than 10 minutes, they took £1,000 cash, while the value of damage caused and other property stolen totalled more than £5,600. Among the sentimental items snatched from a clearly labelled “memories” box was a photograph of the householder’s deceased husband – the last to be taken while he was still alive – and his cufflinks.
“The memory is distorted and polluted. I can no longer feel that same warmth thinking back to it,” the woman had reflected in an impact statement after being left “frightened and shaken” by the latest crime. “It no longer gets me through difficult times. They have taken that and him away from me.”
McKechnie, of West Park Avenue, Ashton-on-Ribble; Hodgeon, 30, of Redcar Avenue, Ingol; and the youth admitted burglary, and received respective jail terms of 54, 37 and 36 months. McKechnie admitted other crimes having been passenger in a stolen car which hit 130mph during a Lancashire police pursuit in February.
Judge James Adkin noted the trio’s Cumbria crime caused “dreadful” after-effects for the victim. “You are all responsible,” said the judge. “It is necessary that you be severely punished.”
The court heard the businesswoman had since been forced to “abandon” her home after four previous raids by other crooks. And Judge Adkin observed of the latest break-in: “This is one of the worst examples of non-confrontation dwelling house burglary I have ever seen. It was professional criminality by a team of burglars.”