Burglary gang members locked up after stealing war medals and OBE

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Scales of justice

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An elderly widow was so upset after burglars stole her late husband’s war medals and OBE she thought about leaving the Greetland home where she had lived for nearly four decades.

A court heard today (Friday) that the items, which were of huge sentimental value to the 76-year-old complainant, had not been recovered even though the four burglars were arrested after they abandoned their getaway vehicle.

Prosecutor Paul Nicholson told Bradford Crown Court that the widow’s home was broken into in September and the burglars had “ransacked” the bedroom before making their getaway in a Volkswagen Golf bearing false registration plates.

A neighbour alerted the police after witnessing the lunchtime break-in and the gang’s getaway car was pursued along Rochdale Road by officers before it was abandoned by the roadside and they tried to escape across moorland.

One of the gang had a stolen necklace on him when he was arrested and officers also found a safe, which had taken from the house, in the abandoned car.

In her victim impact statement the widow, who had been out of the house at the time of the burglary, described how she broke down in tears when she saw the mess in her home.

Today 22-year-old Frederick Stewart, of Bar Terrace, Rochdale, James Gray, 18, of Berwick Street, Rochdale and a 17-year-old youth, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, were given custodial sentences for their part in the break-in.

Stewart received a 12-month jail term and Gray was sent to a young offenders institution for a year.

The youth was made the subject of a 12-month detention and training order while a fourth defendant 18-year-old Michael Stewart, who lives at a caravan park in Doncaster, had his 12-month sentence suspended for two years.

Michael Stewart will have to do 200 hours unpaid work and comply with a rehabilitation activity requirement as part of a 12-month community order attached to his suspended sentence.

Sentencing the four defendants Judge Peter Benson said the complainant had lived in her home undisturbed for 37 years, but she felt so much distress at the invasion of her house that she felt like moving out.

Judge Peter Benson said he took account of the early guilty pleas to burglary from all four defendants, but immediate custody was inevitable for three of them.