AS a gang of burglars burst into his girlfriend’s home, a Southam man fled through the back door to a neighbour’s where he was ‘shivering and shaking’ with fear.
It was originally alleged intruders Alan Crowther, Lee Turner, Matthew Checkley and Nathan Hirons, who had denied a charge of aggravated burglary, were armed with knives.
But after the jury in their trial at Warwick Crown Court had to be discharged, the prosecution controversially decided to accept their pleas of guilty to an alternative charge of burglary – which the judge said he was not happy about – as all four men were jailed.
After being given credit for his plea, Crowther, 25, of no fixed address, but previously of Daventry Road, Southam, was jailed for three years and eight months.
Turner, 26, of Ascote Way, Southam, and Checkley, 29, of Hodnell Drive, Southam, were both sentenced to three years and two months, while Hirons, 24, of Springfield Grove, Southam, was given two years and eight months.
During the trial prosecutor Cathlyn Orchard said that Shana Rawbone lived in a two-bedroom terraced house in Ascote Drive with her two daughters, aged nine and six.
She was in a relationship with Michael McTaggart who would occasionally stay there overnight and would leave his cars, a BMW and a Jaguar, on her drive.
In February, with the girls upstairs in bed, they were lying on the sofa watching television at about 10.30pm when they heard the front door open and the sound of quiet voices.
Mr McTaggart got up and went to the inner door, which was ajar, and tried to close it, but the men burst through breaking the door off its hinges.
It was alleged a knife was swung at Mr McTaggart. Fearing for his safety Mr McTaggart, who denied a defence suggestion he was a drug dealer, ran out of the back door to the home of a neighbour and asked her to call the police.
Meanwhile Miss Rawbone, who said both Checkley and Crowther had knives, stood on the stairs to prevent the intruders going up to where her children were.
She could see them grabbing DVDs and computer games and the key to the BMW, and when they left the house it was said her neighbour saw Turner on the drive with a knife before the men drove off in the BMW which they then abandoned when it stalled.
They ran off towards Hodnell Drive, where both Checkley and Turner lived at the time, but had left by the time the police arrived, although officers found some of the stolen property in the house.
They were all later arrested.
Miss Orchard added because the four defendants had admitted burglary, but not aggravated burglary, the issue in the trial was whether they had knives at the time.
But following a problem with the jury which led to them being discharged, she told the judge it had been decided to accept the pleas to burglary by the four defendants.
At the resumed hearing the court heard Crowther had 33 previous convictions for 73 offences including seven for burglary; Checkley had convictions for 78 offences including three house burglaries; and Turner had 34 offences on his record, but neither he nor Hirons, who had just two previous convictions, had any for burglary.
Jailing the four men, Recorder Stuart Sprawson said they had deliberately gone to the house and entered the porch, trying to take Mr McTaggart by surprise.
Lee Turner- jailed for three years and two months. (s)
Matthew Checkley – jailed for three years and two months. (s)
Nathan Hirons – jailed for two years and eight months. (s)