Burglar caught red-handed with head in door

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A WOMAN viewing a house to let got a shock when a burglar broke in - and so did he, as she had known him for years and identified him to police, a court heard.

Burnley Crown Court was told how drug addict Damien Drury had stuck his head into the property though a hole he had made in the back door. When he saw letting agent Debbie Nolan, who made a grab for him, and the prospective tenant, he was said to have apologised and beat a hasty retreat but caught Ms Nolan as he went.

The viewer had known Drury, who was looking for valuable copper piping, for about six years and he was later arrested. He made no comment, despite being caught red-handed.

The defendant, who has a long record and has served time behind bars, had been subject to a suspended prison term at the time. Drury (32), of Castle Street, Nelson, admitted burglary and was locked up for a total of 38 weeks.

Miss Sarah Statham (prosecuting) said last November 12th, the house, on Fir Street, Nelson, was habitable and was about to be let. Ms Nolan went into the kitchen and saw the defendant’s head and shoulders coming through the bottom of the door.

She was shocked, but immediately tried to grab Drury. He pulled away, turned and accidentally caught her face with his hand.

Miss Statham said the lady being shown around the property recognised Drury straight away and police were called.

The hearing was told the defendant had a record going back to 1995, which included robberies, possessing a firearm with intent and repeated banned driving offences. He had struck seven months into the suspended sentence, imposed for affray. Drury had been convicted of the public order offence after police went to his house to search it, he was not happy and he armed himself with a rolling pin and knife to threaten officers.

Mr David Bentley, for Drury, said it was the first time he had burgled a house. He had targeted the property as it was empty and clearly vacant, but unfortunately there was a short-lived confrontation. Drury was extremely surprised to see the women there, apologised and retreated immediately. The barrister, who said nothing was stolen, added: “They would have been frightened seeing him there.”.

The defendant had been entrenched in drugs misuse all his life but had made efforts to try and deal with his habit. He had turned back to his “old friend heroin” after his parents died, to blot out his feelings.

Mr Bentley said Drury had never been given a drugs programme, but had sought help twice, so there was a level of commitment and motivation there. The barrister added: “I accept the defendant is in real jeopardy today, because of the suspended sentence.”

Sentencing, Judge Heather Lloyd said of the fact the viewer recognised Drury: “I’m afraid that’s the chance you take when you go into other people’s property.”

The judge, who told the defendant the house was not derelict, said copper was “a valuable commodity at this moment in time.”

Judge Lloyd said she accepted drug abuse was at the root of Drury’s problems, but he had had help and had squandered chances. She continued: “Drug abuse these days is regarded as an aggravating feature rather than a mitigating factor.”

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