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Howard and Byrne Solicitors, York - Criminal Defence Specialists

Gang of distraction burglars JAILED

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3:43pm 25th February 2011

A prolific gang of distraction burglars are beginning long prison sentences after pleading guilty to posing as police officers to prey on elderly victims.

Miles Connors, 39, Patrick Connors, 18, and James Hanrahan, 39, all from Barra Hall Circus, in Hayes, Middlesex, have today been sentenced to a total of 21 years’ imprisonment at Newcastle Crown Court.

Miles Connors and Patrick Connors are beginning sentences of nine and seven years’ imprisonment, respectively, after admitting to charges of conspiracy to burgle and burglary.

James Hanrahan was handed a five year sentence after pleading guilty to burglary.

Their sentences come as the result of a nation-wide investigation led by North Yorkshire Police, into a series of distraction burglaries ranging from Scarborough to Hampshire, in the south of England.

Detectives from York CID, assisted by officers from Operation Liberal, a national intelligence unit specialising in combating distraction burglary, and the Metropolitan Police, caught up with the gang at the Selby Fork Hotel, in South Milford, on 28th April 2010.

The gang targeted elderly people by posing as police officers, and occasionally as utility company officials, as they tricked their way into their elderly victims’ homes to steal cash.

They targeted vulnerable residents mainly in their 70s, 80s and 90s in Scarborough and York, in North Yorkshire and Boston Spa in West Yorkshire.

Further victims were duped in Derbyshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Staffordshire, Thames Valley, West Midlands, Wiltshire and London.

Chief Inspector Steve Smith, of North Yorkshire Police, said:

"The convictions today will help protect the public, especially the elderly, from these dangerous people”.

“The evidence gathered in this case implicated each of the defendants in burglaries across the country in 11 different police forces.

“They are professional in that this is how they live, by stealing money. They have at no time expressed any remorse for what they have done and the affect they have had on those who were burgled. 

“Some of the victims have died since these offences, and while no evidence has shown a link between the defendants and their death, I don't doubt for one minute that the shock of being burgled in such a fashion, in their own home, was anything but very distressing for these people.

“I hope the victims and their families can take some comfort from the outcome at court.

“I urge all people to remain vigilant and be aware of the risks presented by people cold calling, especially if they claim to be from the water board, electric board or the police.

“We are working across the country with local forces to try and raise people's awareness of distraction burglaries and bogus callers, and we can all play a part in keeping an eye out for our neighbours and relatives.”

Operation Liberal

Operation Liberal, who coordinate the investigation of distraction burglaries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, were responsible for identifying and linking the series of offences and providing ongoing intelligence and resources as the investigation continued.

Detective Sergeant Mark Seage, of Operation Liberal, praised the collaborative approach which led to today’s long sentences.

He said:

“This was a serious organised crime group who operated across the country targeting the elderly and the vulnerable.

“Their successful prosecution sends out a strong and clear message to anyone contemplating this type of criminality that they face a thorough, no-stone-left-unturned investigation.

“This case was a great example of forces working together. Operation Liberal identified the crime series and were supported by the Metropolitan Police during the initial investigation, which North Yorkshire Police subsequently took primacy for.

“I would also like to acknowledge the support of every individual force involved.”

In an effort to educate vulnerable and elderly people about the threat of distraction burglars, Operation Liberal has launched a new leaflet in partnership with the Energy Retail Association.

The leaflet, which has been distributed throughout all the police force areas in the UK, offers advice on how to spot the tricks and tactics employed by bogus callers.

Deputy Chief Constable Peter Goodman, the ACPO lead for Operation Liberal, believes that educating people is vital in reducing the number of distraction burglaries.

He said:

“Distraction burglars and rogue traders cause their victims terrible anguish, which often leaves their faith in humanity shattered.

“While this type of crime isn’t common, we want to reduce the number of potential victims by making sure the public are empowered with the latest advice and information.”

North Yorkshire offences

On 18th February 2010 Patrick and Miles Connors visited the home of a partially sighted 82 year old woman on Beaconsfield Street, Acomb, in York.

They claimed to be police officers and stated that the victim’s neighbour had been subjected to a theft and that she should check that none of her money had been stolen.

The victim, believing they were genuine, let the two men in and they stole cash from her handbag and a money tin.

On 21st April 2010 Patrick and Miles Connors and James Hanrahan targeted an 81 year old man on Milton Avenue in Scarborough. The called at his home and asked to come in, again under the guise of police officers.

They claimed that they needed to take a statement from him as they had two offenders in their car who said that they knew the victim and they needed to verify their story.

On this occasion the victim, asked the men for identification and they left empty handed.

 

PICTURED BELOW: James Hanrahan

James Hanrahan

PICTURED BELOW: Miles Connors

Miles Connors

PICTURED BELOW: Patrick Connors

Patrick Connors

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