Good turn led to burglary

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A GOOD Samaritan came to the aid of a next door neighbour locked out of her home by crawling through a wall in the loft – but then used the same route to burgle the house 18 months later.

Derek Oates, 32, offered a helping hand when neighbour Denise Smetten locked herself out of her terraced home in Dent Street, Hartlepool.

He told her the bricks in the attic between the house were loose and climbed through to her house – before returning moments later with the keys.

But 18 months later, on May 10, she returned from a night out to discover the home had been ransacked and a jar of loose change had been stolen.

But Oates was snared when he cut himself getting out of the attic and police discovered traces of blood in Miss Smetten’s home and bits of loft insulation.

A DNA match revealed he was the thief and traces of insulation were discovered on his clothes.

Yesterday he was jailed for two years and three months after admitting burglary.

Teesside Crown Court heard she suspected her neighbour had been inside her home on previous occasions when she would return to find things had been moved, money had gone missing and there were traces of loft insulation on her carpet.

But this time she went to police after she found various rooms had been disturbed, including her bedroom, and a jar of loose change was empty.

She had only been out of her house for 90 minutes and returned at 11.30pm.

Richard Wilson, prosecuting, said: “She immediately knew someone had been inside her house.

“Entry hadn’t been forced but items had been moved about.

“Eighteen months prior there had been an occasion when she locked herself out of her

home. She went to the defendant’s house who stated he could get in via the loft. He did this and returned with her keys. That was the first time she became aware there were loose bricks in the loft separating the two properties.”

Oates’ home was searched and examinations of his clothing revealed traces of lost insulation.

But the DNA match to blood traces was enough for him to admit his crimes.

When police confronted Oates they also found he had bypassed his electricity meter.

He later admitted abstracting electricity and burglary.

Martin Scarborough, mitigating, said the offence was Oates’ first house burglary and had accepted his responsibility.

Oates, of Kimberley Street, Hartlepool, was jailed for two years and three months.

Judge Peter Fox, The Recorder of Middlesbrough, said: “You have not been to prison before, but you are going now.

“This was particularly unsettling I judge for this lady.”