Two young burglars used cleaning fluid to try to cover up forensic evidence as they carried out "premier league burglaries" stealing cars worth £86,000, a court heard.
Michael Purcell and Patrick Cash were part of a gang seen masked on CCTV footage as they smashed their way into homes with a crowbar and left a trail of damage.
Locking each of them up for five years and three months, Judge Philip Statman told them: “I have absolutely no hesitation in saying these offences were, and remain, premier league burglaries at the top of the range.
“There were rich pickings to be had. The trauma caused in the community was very substantial indeed.”
Purcell, 19, of Glenside Road, Dunmurry, Belfast, admitted six burglaries and two attempted burglaries.
Cash, 21, of Holywell Lane, Upchurch, admitted four burglaries, two attempted burglaries and handling a stolen car.
They denied conspiracy to burgle between October 15 last year and January 6 and the charge was left on the court file.
“I have absolutely no hesitation in saying these offences were, and remain, premier league burglaries at the top of the range..." - Judge Philip Statman
Patrick Delaney, 26, also of Holywell Lane, Upchurch, denied the conspiracy charge, eight burglary charges, and three of attempted burglary, and not guilty verdicts were entered.
Prosecutor Christopher Amis said it was thought Delaney had been a driver in offences, but it was not possible to identify him.
Maidstone Crown Court heard the burglaries were planned and sophisticated, targeting wealthy families. Cars worth a total of £86,000 were stolen.
The stolen cars and most of the other property were recovered.
“The burglars often used cleaning fluid to spray their entry and exit points in the hope it would eradicate forensic evidence left behind,” said Mr Amis.
“It may be that accounts for the lack of forensic evidence in this case.”
One raid on a home in Wilks Road, Rainham, on October 27 last year was foiled because the victim had an app on his phone which enabled him to communicate directly with the intruders.
Using the app, he was able to shout at them through a speaker he installed that the police had been called. They then fled.
Other break-ins were in Springvale, Wigmore, where a Mercedes was stolen, Maidstone Road in Chatham, Chalky Bank in Gravesend, Allington Drive in Strood, Hazlemere Drive in Gillingham and Boxley Close in Maidstone.
They also targetted Yealand House, Blowers Wood Grove, Water Meadow Close and Chapel Lane, all in Hempstead and Littlefield Road, Edwin Road and Birlington Avenue, all in Rainham.
“The hallmark of their offending was the considerable mess they left behind, often ransacking those houses in the search for valuables,” said Mr Amis.
“It will come as no surprise if I indicate it is often that which creates the greatest heartache.”
A £47,000 BMW and a £35,000 Audi were taken from outside the house in Blowers Wood Drive Grove in Hempstead.
“The hallmark of their offending was the considerable mess they left behind, often ransacking those houses in the search for valuables...” - Prosecutor Christopher Amis
In the burglary in Littlefield Road, Rainham, Asian gold was stolen and clothes were sprayed with olive oil. An obscene picture was sprayed on a wall.
Purcell continued to offend after he was arrested and bailed.
The court heard Purcell and Cash’s parents were “decent people” shocked at their behaviour.
“They couldn’t believe it when they heard he had been arrested,” Tom Kharran, for Purcell, said of the teenager’s parents. “He was using Class A drugs at the time.”
Cash, who was using cannabis and about a gram of cocaine a day at the time, worked for his father in his paving company. He was a regular church-goer.
Christopher Surtees-Jones, defending, said of the parents: “To say they are horrified in watching their son be sentenced is something of an understatement. They have asked: ‘Where did we go wrong?’”
Judge Statman said Purcell and Cash had committed “really grave offences”.
One teenage girl who was at home during one of the botched burglaries had been left traumatised.