When two men broke into a woman’s Leamington home while she was on holiday with her children the most sentimentally valuable items they stole were three ‘tooth fairy pots’.
Fortunately the treasured mementos were recovered thanks to the swift actions of two of her neighbours.
As a result, Matthew Austin and Jonathan Phazey were both arrested nearby, Warwick Crown Court has heard.
Austin, 38 and of Grove Street, Leamington, was jailed for 16 months, and Phazey, 34, of Warwick Place, Leamington, for 12 months after they had both pleaded guilty to the burglary.
Prosecutor Paul Fairley said that in October last year a woman went on holiday to Cornwall with her children, leaving her seven-bedroom detached home in Warwick New Road, Leamington, locked and secure.
Just before 10pm on October 26, one of her neighbours heard the sound of breaking glass, and looked out of his window to see two men in dark clothing in her back garden.
As he watched them, one of the two, Austin, climbed into the house through the broken window, so he immediately called the police.
By the time officers arrived, another neighbour had heard something on the drive of his home and found Austin crouching down next to his car.
Suspecting he was trying to steal it, he challenged Austin, who said he was hiding.
And when the police car pulled up the neighbour directed the officers to Austin, who ran off, but was arrested nearby.
The other neighbour pointed out Phazey, who was sitting on the doorstep of a nearby house, and he was also arrested.
Officers then searched the front gardens of nearby houses and found the property stolen from the burgled house, including a box of beauty products, three empty jewellery boxes and, the most sentimental items, three tooth fairy pots, said Mr Fairley.
When they were first interviewed, both men answered ‘no comment’ to questions put to them.
Phazey then claimed he had been walking along the road, drunk, and had simply gone through a gate and sat on the step where he was arrested - and he denied having anything to do with the burglary.
But a forensic scientist found fragments of glass from the broken window on the clothing of both men – which Austin then suggested had been ‘planted’ by the police, added Mr Fairley.
The court heard that Austin had five convictions for nine offences, and Phazey 32 convictions for 57 offences, but neither had previously been involved in a domestic burglary.
Anna Rohan, for Austin, who had forced open the woman’s locked bedroom door while in the house, said he was shocked he had broken into someone’s home, and has written a letter expressing his remorse.
She said he had been expecting some pain medication that day because he suffers pressure on his brain as a result of an assault when he was a teenager, but did not receive it.
He was homeless and staying in a hostel at the time, and had been drinking and taking opiates that day, but has now taken steps to address those problems, she added.
Nick Devine, for Phazey, conceded he had ‘a pretty awful record,’ but until the burglary he had not committed any offences since 2013.
Mr Devine commented that Phazey’s record was one which was ‘typical’ for a drug addict, with a number of convictions for shoplifting, but the burglary was ‘a step up.’
He pointed out that Phazey, who had little recollection of what happened because he had been consuming drink and drugs, had not gone into the house.
Jailing the two men, Recorder John Freeman told them: “Neighbours were alerted by breaking glass, and the police were alerted by these two very good neighbours.
“The most serious part of it, Austin, was where you broke into her bedroom with brute force.
“You, Phazey, stayed outside, but were obviously part and parcel to the burglary, but not to the entry into the bedroom.”