BURGLAR Albert James has been jailed for eight years after targeting an ‘unprecedented’ 51 homes in a campaign of burglary.
The 58-year-old, who is blind in one eye, struck at the homes over seven weeks across Hampshire and West Sussex.
Prosecutor Tim Moores revealed at Portsmouth Crown Court that James stole more than £110,000-worth of items, mainly jewellery.
He struck at around dusk at homes he thought were empty but twice occupants were woken and terrified as he smashed his way in.
James left no forensic trace but was tracked down after the silver Mitsubishi Shogun he drove was seen on ANPR.
He stole from homes in Waterlooville, Fareham, Portsmouth, Bognor Regis, Littlehampton and Chichester.
Detectives in Hampshire and Sussex discovered James and used mobile phone data to prove he was in the area at the times of the burglary.
Sentencing him to eight years in prison judge Roger Hetherington said: ‘These were highly professional burglaries, it’s rightly described as a campaign of professional burgling, in the course of which you deliberately targeted properties that you believed would be unoccupied.’
Damian Hayes, for James, said the thief was now sorry – but the judge dismissed this.
Speaking after the case, Detective Constable Jon Woolley, from Sussex, said: ‘Having worked in burglary units, the scale of it was unprecedented over such a short period of time.’
James, of Mill Pond Crescent, Donnington, near Chichester, was found guilty of 47 counts of burglary and four attempted burglaries.
He started his spree on October 25, 2014, with the last crime on December 10, 2014.
Detective Sergeant Simon Clacey, from Hampshire police, oversaw the 20-month investigation with Detective Constable Rebecca Brown the lead officer in Hampshire.
Total values of items stolen in individual burglaries ranged from £90 to £20,800.
The court heard James has previous burglary convictions dating back to 1973 up to 2001 but then had a gap in offending until 2008 and 2010 when he committed other crimes.
The judge added: ‘You really have no mitigation whatever. It’s said that you have apologised to those you have burgled but that’s an empty gesture given that you contested this trial and disputed your guilt.’