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Burglar John Saunders jailed after Harvester robbery in Dartford and string of burglaries

By Sandra Hembery

A father of four has been jailed for five-and-a-half years for a string of robberies and burglaries in Dartford.

John Saunders, 33, had been given a suspended sentence in February this year for attempted robbery and assault but went on to commit further crimes in March and April, Maidstone Crown Court was told.

Recorder Cairns Nelson QC told Saunders: “In February you were given a real chance to turn your life around. Sadly you did not take that chance and went completely off the rails within two months of the imposition of that order.”

John Saunders has been jailed for five-and-a-half-years
John Saunders has been jailed for five-and-a-half-years

Saunders admitted two robberies, three burglaries and one attempted burglary, all in Dartford.

He also asked for five offences of robbery, burglary and attempted burglary to be considered and admitted he was in breach of a suspended prison sentence imposed for attempted robbery and assault and was also in breach of a conditional discharge for possessing a blade in public.

Juliet Oliver, prosecuting, said on the evening of April 9 Saunders went into an arcade in Dartford High Street wearing a balaclava and carrying what a member of staff thought was a knife.

He demanded the keys to the safe and when she told him she did not have them he pulled off her money bag containing £70.

Miss Oliver said he was identified from the arcade’s CCTV as he had been walking around the building before putting on his balaclava.

The Harvester was one of the places targeted by Saunders
The Harvester was one of the places targeted by Saunders

The second robbery was on April 12/13 at the Harvester restaurant in Dartford.

The manager was cashing up when Saunders walked in wearing a scarf over his face, demanded the keys to the safe and took £1,000.

He told the manager he had something in his pocket and if he didn’t hand over the money he would smash his head with it, Miss Oliver said.

The burglaries happened on March 13 and April 8 and 9 at a hairdresser’s in Dartford, the Wat Tyler pub and the Gala bingo hall.

CCTV images led to Saunders’ identification. The attempted burglary was on April 8 at Dartford’s Royal Oak pub and Saunders was identified after the landlord took his picture on his phone.

Saunders was arrested on April 16 and admitted all six offences.

He told police he was using crack cocaine and used the money he stole to buy more. He said he was not armed with a knife but a large piece of metal.

Miss Oliver told the court Saunders had a long history of dishonesty, starting when he was 14 and had served “copious sentences of imprisonment.”

“When he is sober he is a man of charm and some ambition" - Graham Lloyd

Mr Recorder Nelson commented that Saunders had 54 previous convictions involving 95 offences.

Graham Lloyd, defending, said Saunders was a part-qualified electrician, having taken his exams while in jail.

“On February 14 things looked incredibly rosy for him but it started to go wrong almost immediately,” Mr Lloyd said.

“He went on a spiral of decline and started taking drugs again.”

Mr Lloyd said Saunders was bound to be caught as there were cameras all over the place and he added: “When he is sober he is a man of charm and some ambition.

“He has come off drugs and trains in the gym each day and is looking forward to doing every course going in prison to come out and make something of his life.”

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