Jail for burglars who stole £23,000 of items from farms and rural properties in North York Moors

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Two roving thieves who swept through the North York Moors on an epic burglary spree, stealing goods worth more than £20,000, have been jailed for a combined eight years.

Lewis Hutchinson, 23, and Lewis Adams, 28, targeted farms, smallholdings and other rural properties in the Malton and Whitby areas where they stole agricultural vehicles, machinery and power tools, York Crown Court heard.

During the two-month “burglary campaign”, the thieves - who were said to have worked as a gang with others - travelled from the Middlesbrough and Redcar areas to look for rich pickings in the North Yorkshire countryside.

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They stole machinery and vehicles worth more than £23,000 after ramming gates, breaking padlocks and chains, hot-wiring quad bikes and stripping steel roller sheets and shutters from barns, sheds, garages, workshops and other outbuildings, said prosecutor David Gordon.

Lewis Hutchinson, left, and Lewis Adams.Lewis Hutchinson, left, and Lewis Adams.
Lewis Hutchinson, left, and Lewis Adams.

Other stolen items were of a value unknown and the thieves caused more than £10,000 damage to the many rural properties they targeted in the dead of night.

Hutchinson, of Edward Street, Eston, Teesside, was initially charged with 27 counts of burglary but ultimately admitted 17 burglary charges and one count of conspiracy to burgle. The matters he denied were dropped by the prosecution.

Adams, of Wilton Way, Grangetown, Redcar, ultimately admitted one count of conspiracy to burgle which encompassed four burglaries and two attempted burglaries.

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Mr Gordon said that during the raids, which occurred between early December 2018 and mid-January 2019, the thieves stole quad bikes, Land Rovers, hand tools, power washers, chainsaws, hedge trimmers, diesel and fishing equipment from villages including Helmsely, Glaisdale and Egton Bridge. At least six of the raids occurred in Helmsley.

At one property, a man woke to find his £8,000 Land Rover being driven off his driveway. The victim’s 7ft tall cast-iron gate had been “broken open”, its smashed parts laid either side of the driveway.

In another incident at a farm in Glaisdale, the thieves stole a £3,500 quad bike from a shed after snapping a padlock and chain after taking a gate off its hinges.

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In another break-in, at a farm in Helmsley, they “sheared off” two locks to a barn during an attempted burglary.

And in another raid, again on a farm in Helmsley, they snapped the padlock to two large shed doors and stole a Raptor 700 quad bike, but then dumped the vehicle in nearby woodland. The quad was found to have damage to its ignition barrel.

Another victim, who owns a poultry business in Helmsley, was alerted to intruders by his dog barking and an engine revving at about 6am. He looked outside to see the headlights of his quad bike switched on and two men revving it. They drove off on it, but a local farmer later informed the victim that the quad had been found in a nearby field.

Police later found Hutchinson, “filthy and soaking wet (and) covered in mud”, walking along the A170 near Helmsley with another man. Hutchinson had £650 cash on him.

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Hutchinson and later Adams were arrested but remained silent for the most part in police interview. They appeared for sentence via video link on Friday after being remanded in custody.

Both men had a long list of previous convictions for burglary, theft and kindred. Many of the offences were committed in the Ryedale and Pickering areas.

Andrew Turton, for Hutchinson, said his client, a former factory worker in Stokesley, had fallen on hard times after losing his job.

Hutchinson had served a previous three-year prison sentence for similar matters from November 2019 and was due to be released partway through that sentence in October last year, but he was remanded in custody following his arrest for the new offences a few weeks before it expired.

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Wayne Jackson, for Adams, conceded that he had an “appalling” record and had served a previous three-year prison term from 2015 for a “much bigger” burglary conspiracy where farm and rural properties were targeted.

Recorder Alex Menary said the thieves had deliberately targeted “rural farms and vehicles and other rural properties” because they were in isolated locations and “generally poorly defended”.

He told the defendants: “This was targeted, focused and planned offending. You preyed on members of the rural community, causing (significant) loss (and) damage and ruining people’s livelihoods.”

Hutchinson was jailed for four years and three months. Adams was jailed for just under four years. They will both serve half of those sentences behind bars before being released on parole.