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School burglary gang boss jailed
The ringleader of a burglary gang that smashed its way into schools and colleges, including Ilkley Grammar School, to steal valuable computer equipment has been jailed for four years and five months.
Judge Robert Bartfield told Stuart Walton, 32: “You should be utterly ashamed” when he locked him up at Bradford Crown Court late yesterday afternoon.
Walton, of Percy Street, Keighley, pleaded guilty to six burglary offences and two of handling stolen goods.
In the dock with him were Daniel Illingworth, 23, of Bar Lane, Riddlesden, and Michael Kenrick, 24, of Dalton Lane, Keighley.
Illingworth admitted two offences of handling stolen computers and Kenrick one offence of handling stolen computers for the benefit of another.
All three were originally charged with conspiracy to burgle, along with Laura McCullough, 24, of Khus Walk, Keighley. She was cleared of the offence when the Crown offered no evidence against her and was not present at the hearing.
Prosecutor Andrew Dallas said Walton had a string of previous convictions for burglary and car crime.
On March 9, 2012, he dishonestly handled three rings raided in an £180,000 burglary at Souk Jewellery in Main Street, Haworth. The diamond rings were later traced to a pawnbroker in Bradford.
Mr Dallas said the shop owner was under insured and the burglary put her out of business.
Walton then committed the four burglaries and two attempted burglaries at schools and colleges.
Mr Dallas told the court: “He was the principal member of a gang carrying out targeted burglaries of schools and other educational establishments, usually in the Airedale or greater Bradford area.”
The criminals were after computers and seemed to know where they were kept.
“Between January, 2012, and March this year, an average of eight and a half of these burglaries a month were being committed in the area,” Mr Dallas said.
Walton admitted an attempted break-in at Samuel Lister Academy in Cottingley, Bingley, on June 5, 2012.
On July 2 that year, he targeted Ilkley Grammar school but did not get in. Four nights later, he and his accomplices were back, stealing a laptop computer and doing £3,500 damage.
Overnight, on July 15, Challenge College in Frizinghall was broken into at three separate entry points.
A laptop was stolen and £2,500 damage done.
On August 31, six new computers were raided from the Samuel Lister Academy, setting back the students’ work by two months.
On September 4, Walton was arrested in Bingley with tools and a torch in his car and rebailed.
On September 30, he raided Craven College at Skipton, smashing a window in the Ingleborough Building to take 18 Apple computers valued at a total of more than £10,000.
The stolen computers were trundled along in wheelbarrows into a vehicle.
Illingworth admitted handling them and all three defendants admitted handling six of eight computers, valued at £11,600, stolen days later from the college.
Mr Dallas said a tracking device had been placed on one of the computers after the first burglary and they were traced to a house in Aireworth Grove, Keighley.
The three men were arrested there and the six computers recovered.
Richard Gioserano, mitigating for Walton, said he had worked hard as a landscape gardener. He had a good level of victim awareness and was remorseful.
Simon Myers, for Illingworth,said he had no previous convictions and had set up his own business as a plumbing and heating engineer. He was sentenced to pay £2,000 compensation to Craven College.
Stephen Wood said Kenrick was a lorry driver who handled the computers for someone else. He was conditionally discharged and ordered to pay £1,000 costs.
Judge Bartfied told Walton it was a “campaign of burglary”.
“Our educational establish-ments struggle hard enough to survive without the damage that you burglars did by taking their essential equipment, depriving children of what they need. You should be utterly ashamed,” he said.