A BURGLAR who ransacked the home of an 88-year-old Alzheimer’s sufferer with two fellow drug addicts has been jailed for 18 months.
Ryan O’Reilly was part of a three-man gang who made such an untidy search of a home while hunting for jewellery and money to steal, the elderly occupant had to move out so his family could clear the mess, Bournemouth Crown Court heard.
The trio took only two CCTV cameras installed at the property to protect its vulnerable owner.
The youngest of the three burglars, 28-year-old O’Reilly – who has played football locally for Sway FC and Somerford FC – was sent down by Judge Peter Crabtree despite offering to pay the victim £200 compensation in a bid to avoid jail.
Prosecutor Antony Bailey told the court the victim, William Brook, had lived in the Holton Heath home near Poole with his wife Elizabeth (87) for 57 years.
Elizabeth had been diagnosed with dementia in 2012 and, months before the burglary, was moved into a care home because her condition had worsened. William, who during his career worked for the Ministry of Defence on nuclear submarines, had also been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and lived alone, with his daughter checking on him every day.
Because of William’s vulnerability, his son Stephen installed three CCTV cameras at the property – one concealed at the front entrance and others inside in the sitting room and hallway.
Mr Bailey said on the day in question, 29th August, Mr Brook left his property at 9.30am to go to the Wareham Day Centre, returning at 4pm to find it had been burgled.
He alerted his family and police, who checked the CCTV – which was played in court – and found three men had “ransacked” the home, Mr Bailey said.
The front camera showed O’Reilly approaching the remote property and checking it was empty before the trio, who wore scarves to hide their faces, gained access, the prosecutor continued.
The internal CCTV showed the defendant being ordered by the other two men, career criminal Glen Mallen and Martin Mongan – who were both on licence from prison at the time – to stay downstairs while they searched the upstairs rooms.
O’Reilly was spotted taking one of the downstairs cameras while the other two men emptied out various drawers – breaking into a cabinet using a screwdriver.
Mallen and Mongan left clothes and property “strewn” around various rooms, Mr Bailey added, and the two internal cameras taken by the burglars were not recovered.
In a victim impact statement, Stephen Brook said his parents – who have been married 58 years – could not tell if anything else was stolen because their memories were hampered.
Following the raid, William had to stay with his daughter who took time off work to clear up before her father could move back in.
Stephen called the offence “callous” and told the court: “The invasion of my parents’ and our privacy is in my view outrageous.”
O’Reilly, of Burton Road, Christchurch, originally denied the offence but later changed his plea.
At the sentencing hearing, he also admitted stealing beer worth £12.25 from the Christchurch Shell garage one night in August and asked for that be taken into consideration.
Originally from Manchester, O’Reilly moved to Christchurch in 2010 and had largely kept out of trouble since, apart from a common assault, his barrister Robert Grey said.
O’Reilly was very remorseful, he continued, pointing out his client had penned apologetic letters to the victim and the judge and wanted to get his life back on track.
He said his client had become addicted to drugs, including cocaine, around the time of the offence after splitting from his partner, and offended to fund his habit.
However, in the weeks before his sentencing O’Reilly enlisted with a drug rehab programme in Christchurch, had supportive friends and family and secure accommodation, while probation recommended he do 150 hours of unpaid work in the community.
He had got together £200 to pay Mr Brook by way of apology, the defence barrister said, urging the judge to give O’Reilly a suspended sentence.
The court heard his co-defendants both pleaded guilty to the burglary at an earlier hearing.
Mallen (25), of no fixed abode, was a prolific offender who had already completed numerous spells in prison in his birthplace of Ireland and in England, mostly for burglaries, Mr Bailey revealed.
Defending him, Tom Evans said his client had been addicted to hard drugs, including heroin, since he was 13 and experienced a tough upbringing. However, he was keen to be rehabilitated as his partner was pregnant and he would move back to Manchester once released from custody.
Mongan, of Leyland, Lancashire, had 13 convictions on his record, including flouting court orders and taking an item out of a prison. His barrister, Robin Leach, said he was a drug addict who offended to fund his habit.
Sentencing, Judge Crabtree said O’Reilly had been the “scout” and played a “subordinate role” in the burglary. He noted the respective health problems suffered by Mr and Mrs Brook meant the court could not be sure if anything other than the two CCTV cameras were stolen.
The property was subjected to an “exceptionally messy search” that amounted to a “ransacking” he ruled, giving Mallen a 34-month jail term and Mongan a 30-month one.
Turning to O’Reilly, the judge said he had decided not to suspend his sentence and gave him 18 months.
“The offending is too serious for anything other than a custodial sentence,” Judge Crabtree said. “You were part of a group and played your part in a serious dwelling house burglary that has had a significant impact on the occupant and others.”