Published: 00:00, 11 July 2014
| Updated: 13:10, 11 July 2014
Smirking David Slater thought his arrest and trial for an £18,000 break-in was just..."a joke".
But minutes after being convicted for the Rough Common burglary a judge wiped the smile from his face.
Slater, 35, was jailed for six years and told by Judge James O’Mahony: "You described the prosecution case against you as a joke... well who is laughing now?"
Slater, of Ivy House Road, Whitstable has a criminal record containing a string of previous break-ins going back 10 years.
A jury at Canterbury Crown Court heard how he had used a garden spade to smash his way into the home of the Holness family last year – and ransacked each room stealing priceless items.
Mercy Holness, 55, who lives with her husband Jim, 55, son Matthew, 29, and daughter Rachel, 23, said: "iPads and other gadgets are replaceable, but the theft of family jewellery has caused the most distress. It represents a lifetime of celebration and remembrance.
"A ring belonging to my late mum was taken, along with a charm bracelet from my husband of 32 years, and presents from my daughter's 18th and 21st birthdays. That’s what hurts the most.
"We're talking jewellery worth thousands of pounds, from brands including Pandora, Links of London and Thomas Sabo. He must've had a field day. Unfortunately, I do like jewellery. It's bought for me for every anniversary.
"He also emptied the house of hundreds of pounds in cash. They even took loose change."
Mrs Holness added: "When my son phoned me to tell me we'd been burgled, I fell to pieces.
"My bedroom was completely trashed. They emptied the drawers onto the bed and touched all my belongings.
"It's horrible to think he touched things like my children's ID bracelets from when they were born. Our privacy has been violated."
The judge told Slater, who had denied the offence: "This wasn't a joke... the evidence (against you) was overwhelming.
"I have never read such harrowing impact statements from the victims."
He then praised the family for their dignity throughout the hearing and commended Det Constable Jay Robinson and his team for the investigation.
Slater used a spade to force open the bathroom window of the house in Rough Common Road on November 13 last year, before stealing more than £18,000 worth of items including cash, jewellery, an iPad and a laptop.
Witnesses said they saw a silver car parked on the victims' driveway during the time of the burglary.
Officers used the automatic number plate recognition footage from the area to identify the car.
The next day Slater was arrested and when searching the car, officers found a metal biscuit tin which contained a large amount of coins and small building materials. The victims were able to identify the contents of the tin as coming from their house.
Officers were also able to forensically link a shoe mark found at the house to Slater, which he was wearing at the time of his arrest.
He was charged on November 15 with burglary.
Speaking after the sentencing, investigating officer Detective Constable Jay Robinson said: "This is a fantastic result for the home owners of Whitstable and Canterbury. Slater is a prolific burglar who has brought misery onto the lives of the residents.
"Throughout the trial he protested his innocence despite overwhelming evidence which was clear to the jury who very quickly convicted him of this offence.
"The victims of this offence have been devastated by the burglary and as a result of his actions are looking to sell up."
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