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The mobile phone photograph that caught a burglar who terrorised community
THEY were indiscriminate in who they targeted but left all their victims feeling scared and vulnerable.
Andrew Wooff and Richard Vincent broke into homes across Southampton in the dead of night while families, couples and in one case an elderly great-grandmother lay sleeping.
The creeper-style burglaries left their victims traumatised, fearful and even afraid to sleep in their own beds months after the break-ins were committed.
Not only did he not care, but Wooff was even happy to pose Rambo-style with weapons he stole during one break-in – revelling in the notoriety of his crimes.
However, that was to prove to be a downfall after police seized his phone on which the photo had been taken, helpIng to secure his conviction.
Only recently released from prison and still on probation after previous burglary offences, the duo teamed up to target homes in the city stealing cash, jewellery, electrical goods and cars.
Today they are beginning significant prison terms after they were sentenced for the crime spree.
Wooff, 20, of Wharncliffe Road was given six years while Vincent, 23, from Drayton Road, Winchester, was handed a five-year term.
Prosecutor Daniel Sawyer described how the pair left crucial clues at the scenes of their crimes.
Initially the duo were charged with conspiracy to commit 24 burglaries in the space of a couple of months.
In court Wooff pleaded guilty to five burglaries, two charges of handling stolen goods and one charge of possession of ammunition by a prohibited person.
Vincent admitted four counts of burglary and two offences of handling stolen goods.
Southampton Crown Court heard how they both initially targeted a home on Glenfield Avenue in May, during which keys were taken from the home to the occupants’ Astra which was then driven to Stockbridge near Winchester.
There they then broke into another home where a mother and her teenage daughter lay sleeping.
A key breakthrough came the following month when the pair broke into a home in Dimond Road, where after taking an Xbox and games Wooff helped himself to some chicken from the fridge and a drink.
The mother who lived at the property with her two young sons noticed that a bottle of soft drink had been moved and when a swab was taken Wooff’s DNA was found on it.
Wooff also left a fingerprint at the scene of a break-in at a property in Weston. The 96-year old great-gran woke to find two men in her bedroom rifling through her jewellery box.
The victim’s helpline was cut and telephone handset removed to prevent her raising the alarm.
Days later Wooff broke into a home in Bryanston Road where he took a haul of weapons, including an air rifle, air pistol, ammunition and a machete.
Vincent was also convicted for a burglary at an address at Quob Farm Close where watches were taken – one of which was found at Wooff’s address.
There he was also found to have another watch which had been stolen from a burglary in Westrow Gardens.
Police also managed to link other handling offences by connecting various other break-ins and locations along with DNA and CCTV footage and failed attempts to take money from ATMs using stolen bank cards.
Mr Sawyer told the court the effect of the burglaries had led to victims fitting extra security to their homes, with one so badly affected he had a wall specifically built around it.
The court heard Wooff’s convictions started when he was aged 15 and due to a previous conviction of aggravated burglary in which weapons were used he had been classed as a “dangerous” person.
Gordon Carter, defending father-of-one Wooff, said after committing the offences on licence he had been recalled to the young offenders’ institution in Portland.
He told the judge: “There is a real danger if you pass a significant sentence, he will become institutionalised. If you don’t take a draconian attitude, he could be rehabilitated and come out on the other side.”
Charles Gabb, defending Vincent, said he conceded it was not a question of whether he would receive a custodial sentence – it was its length. Vincent claimed his role was that of a driver.
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