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Burglar stole from terminal cancer patient and 98-year-old in two-week spree

Arron Whitehead was jailed for two years for five burglaries in Downham Market. Picture: Norfolk Police

Arron Whitehead was jailed for two years for five burglaries in Downham Market. Picture: Norfolk Police

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An 'unsophisticated' burglar who smashed his way into the homes of a terminal cancer patient and 98-year-old care home resident has been jailed for two years.

Arron Whitehead, 26, admitted burgling five homes in the space of just two weeks in Downham Market earlier this year, targeting properties that appeared empty.

Three of the houses were on Bexwell Road, including the home of a 98-year-old who had been moved into care.

Prosecutor Martin Ivory told Norwich Crown Court today all of the break-ins involved “a fairly rudimentary smashing of a window”.

At the home of the elderly woman a stamp collection, old coins and certificate were stolen. It was the second time the home had been raided in 12 months, and no jewellery was stolen as it had all already been taken, Mr Ivory said.

On February 27 the owners of another home on Bexwell Road had left for the day, returning at 6.30pm to find the rear patio door had bene smashed with a “large slab”.

A gym bag, jewellery and a money box with £600 in pound coins were stolen, and from a home on Paradise Road aftershave, a suit and alcohol were stolen.

On March 1 the window of another Bexwell Road home was smashed. An air rifle, Pandora jewellery and coins were taken.

The house had been up for sale at the time and the owners living in caravan while their new home was built.

“They are struggling to come to terms with what happened,” said Mr Ivory. “His wife was in remission from cancer and this felt like another body blow they really didn't need.”

One of Whitehead's victims at Broomhill was also receiving cancer treatment.

She had terminal pancreatic cancer, and had just completed her first round of chemotherapy.

The couple were away visiting their son at university in Plymouth as a “special treat” for her when Whitehead smashed his way in.

He stole her engagement ring, her dead father's service medals, and an £8,000 ring gifted to her for her 30th birthday.

“Their privacy and sanctity of their home had been violated,” said Mr Ivory. “She had worn the engagement ring nearly every day for the last 40 years.

“The burglary could not have come at a worse time. In February 2018 she was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer, and at Christmas underwent surgery.

“The trip to Plymouth represented the end of 12 fortnightly cycles of chemotherapy. The pain and upset caused is almost impossible to overstate.”

Philip Farr said in mitigation for Whitehead he had lost his licence as a scrap metal dealer, and he has no previous convictions for burglary.

“This was a particularly low ebb in his personal life,” said Mr Farr. “He separated with his fiancee and moved back in with his father in a caravan in Ella's Place.

“He is a traveller - he collects scrap metal and sells it for recycling. He has done that since leaving school but doesn't have the appropriate licence any longer and found himself struggling to make ends meet.”

Jailing Whitehead for two years, Judge Katharine Moore told him he left his victims feeling “nervous in their own homes”.

“The jewellery stolen was described as a lifetime of presents and memories,” she said. “You have left a number of people saddened, frustrated and fearful.”

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