Three young men who went on a burglary spree, breaking into five houses on the same day, including two in the same street, have all been jailed.
But a 17-year-old accomplice escaped custody after a judge at Warwick Crown Court heard he is set to join the Army.
Callum Holland, Jay Bennett and Matthew McKeown had all pleaded guilty to five burglaries at houses in Southam, Dunchurch and Rugby, and taking a car without consent.
Holland, who was the first to enter his pleas and smirked each time he said ‘guilty,’ also admitted two more burglaries committed the previous day in Rugby and Bedworth.
Bennett, 20, of Shulmans Walk, Henley Green, Coventry, who had only been freed on licence from an earlier sentence days before the offences, was jailed for 22 months.
Holland, 18, Ansty Road, Coventry, was jailed for 20 months; and McKeown, 21, of Norman Place Road, Coundon, Coventry, for 18 months.
The 17-year-old, who a judge has ordered cannot be identified because of his age, was given a youth rehabilitation order with 12 months supervision, an intensive supervision and surveillance programme and a 90-day electronically-tagged curfew from 7pm to 7am, after he admitted four of the burglaries.
Prosecutor Jonathan Eley said: “This was an organised burgling group who together toured local villages and suburbs looking out for likely properties to burgle.”
On July 9 last Holland broke into a house in Bilton Road, Rugby, by forcing open the front door while the couple who lived there were at work and their children at school.
He escaped with car and house keys and jewellery including a diamond necklace, but had left a footprint which was later found to match his shoe.
He also broke into a house in Coalpit Fields Road, Bedworth, by smashing a door panel, but left empty-handed.
The following day he teamed up with the other three defendants and headed to Southam in a VW Golf driven by Bennett.
They broke into two houses in Merestone Close, with £2,000 worth of jewellery being taken from the first address, and two expensive cycles worth £2,900 and an i-Pad and jewellery worth a further £500 from the second house.
They also took the owner’s VW Touran from outside, but later abandoned it in Long Itchington.
The team then drove to Dunchurch where they broke into a house in Sandyford Way while the owner was on holiday.
A friend who was looking after the house and the owner’s dog had a call from a neighbour to say it had been broken into and found there had been an untidy search, and a cash box containing £180 and two bank cards had been taken.
The four then carried on into Rugby where they kicked open the back door of a house in Percival Road and used garden shears from the shed to force open an internal door.
They escaped with jewellery, a laptop and a purse with four dollars in it from that house; and jewellery, two laptops, a gold watch, champagne and a bottle of liquor from an address in Charter Avenue.
That burglary was discovered by the owner’s daughter when she got home, and she alerted the police and her mother.
Details of the black Golf, which had been spotted by a neighbour of one of the burgled houses, were circulated, and it was followed by an unmarked police car before being stopped.
All four defendants were arrested, and in the boot officers found property from three of the burglaries, together with pairs of rubber gloves and a balaclava.
They also found the keys to the Touran from which they recovered more of the stolen property.
Mr Eley pointed out that in November 2012 Bennett had been jailed for a total of three-and-a-half years for burglary and harassment, and had only been freed on licence a few days earlier, as a result of which he has been recalled to prison.
Holland and McKeown also had previous convictions, but none for burglary, and the 17-year-old’s only conviction was for shining a laser light at a police helicopter when he was 15.
Andrew Tucker, for the youth, said he was ‘the youngest and least criminally sophisticated of the four’ and had become involved out of misguided loyalty to his friends.
He had been accepted to join the Army after doing well in an initial intelligence test, and became involved with the others after suffering a setback when he broke his leg.
“If he is not ordered to serve a custodial sentence, the offer of a place would still be open to him; and that career will give him what he needs, including a degree of discipline.”
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano told the four: “I am dealing with you for a series of burglaries when an organised group of people toured villages and suburbs looking for likely properties to burgle, properties where people were likely to be at work.
“Doors were forced and property of value was taken. It is clear the value runs into five figures, that is over £10,000 of property.
“You have all pleaded guilty to at least four of these burglaries. They are all serious offences and they were clearly planned.”
Jailing the three oldest defendants, she said: “The message must go out that if people plan and carry out burglaries of people’s homes, they must go to prison.”
She told the 17-year-old: “Different considerations apply in your case. I am dealing with you as a young person effectively of good character, and you were only 16 at the time.”