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Dog walker turns detective to help bring Eden Valley burglars to justice

Arthur O’Leary and Michael Stokes

TWO travelling burglars who raided a pensioner’s Eden Valley village home have been brought to justice and jailed – thanks to an eagle-eyed dog walker!

Carlisle Crown Court heard the 71-year-old householder, Douglas Bell, left his home in Melmerby, between Penrith and Alston, to visit his daughter on February 7.

While Mr Bell was out, an alert dog walker noted suspicious activity around the address in darkness at around 6-20pm. The head torch-wearing dog-walker encountered the crooks, Michael John Stokes, 29, and 35-year-old Arthur O’Leary, who engaged in distraction chat before leaving the scene and driving away.

After he managed to take down the vehicle’s registration number and alert police, officers traced Stokes and O’Leary to Appleby, where they were arrested.

After smashing their way in and rummaging through rooms, the heavily-convicted pair had snatched currency, watches and jewellery, a quantity of which was recovered. However, the householder’s partner Ann Phillips, in an impact statement, had outlined the dramatic emotional effect of the crime, and suffering sleepless nights.

“I would not wish this on my worst enemy,” she said of the incident. “The fact they were arrested and are currently in prison makes me feel better that they are not able to do this to any other vulnerable people.”

Stokes, of Westmorland Rise, Appleby, and O’Leary, of an address unknown, admitted burglary when they appeared at the crown court today (MON), and were each jailed for three years.

Handing down the pair’s punishment, Judge Nicholas Barker said of the witness’ timely intervention on the night of their crime: “He is to be applauded and thanked for his efforts.”

Detective Constable Dawn Grant, North Cumbria Crime and Safeguarding Team, said: “We are pleased that these two men have been jailed.

“They stole from a pensioner who had not long left his home and had secured his property.

“I would like to thank the witness who acted quickly to note down the vehicle registration number, which was of great assistance to our officers who were able to quickly locate the pair. His vigilance has not only led to these men being brought to justice, but sends a clear message to criminals that our communities look out for each other.”

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