JAILED: Burglary gang doused homes in bleach to cover tracks during raids on pensioners' homes
A gang of burglars who targeted pensioners as they stole more than £45,000 from victims including an 89-year-old with dementia have been jailed.
Michael Connors and brothers Thomas and Michael Wall travelled from Wrexham to the Black Country to prey on the elderly and threw bleach over the surfaces and floors of the homes they burgled.
They even doused a woman's wrists with it to hide their DNA after forcing their way inside and making her sit on a chair while they searched her during one of 10 burglaries between October 10 and 11, 2019, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.
The 10 raids were among 29 burglaries in 10 days in the autumn of 2019 and tracking down the gang became "the highest policing priority" in the region after five incidents in one day alone.
Cash, jewellery and designer items were taken from the homes in Walsall and Wolverhampton by Connors and the Wall brothers who wore red gloves, prosecutor Mr Graham Russell said.
Eight of the homes were unoccupied, but the Wall brothers and their cousin Connors, from Ruthin Road Caravan Park in Wrexham, pushed their way into a Wolverhampton home after the elderly householder denied an offer for her windows to be cleaned. The woman was forced to sit on a chair while they demanded money and jewellery and searched her home.
Later they targeted the Willenhall home of an 89-year-old man with dementia among other health concerns, and "worked around him ransacking" his home and destroyed all but two carpets in his home with bleach.
Philip Delaney was seen by an officer driving a stolen car used to get to the West Midlands with the others inside on October 17, they were all later identified on CCTV travelling back to Wrexham on public transport.
Mr Russell said: "Michael Connors and Thomas and Michael Wall are members of a relatively sophisticated criminal enterprise.
"The three main defendants travelled to the West Midlands in a stolen car which had four sets of stolen number plates.
"At times they spread bleach on surfaces and floors and in one case on the wrists and arms of a householder they encountered in order to frustrate an investigation.
"On the third occasion they came into the West Midlands, Delaney was the driver of a stolen Seat, but there is no evidence to connect him to the two earlier trips. They must have had a driver but that individual hasn't been identified."
From Willenhall to Bilston
An attempted burglary took place in Willenhall while the householder was out, but the three were spotted by a neighbour wearing one red glove.
Later an elderly woman in Wolverhampton's Goldthorn Park reported the three forcing their way into her home after offering to clean her windows which she refused.
They picked her up, put her on the settee, asked where her money and gold was and searched the property before spreading cleaning products on the surfaces and her wrists, Mr Russell added.
WATCH: CCTV shows masked gang
Police launched a major appeal to track the gang down after a total of 29 burglaries in 10 days in 2019 and warned elderly people to take care. Connors and the Wall brothers have been convicted of 10 of the burglaries. This footage is in relation to the wider spate of incidents.
Later the same day the three struck at an 89-year-old man's Willenhall home who had dementia.
"The gang simply worked around him as he was impaired and vulnerable and left damage to the lock," Mr Russell added.
"The kitchen counters were covered in bleach and only two carpets in the property were not destroyed by the bleach.
"His daughter says he believes everyone is his friend."
Other burglaries at empty homes took place in Bilston on October 10 then and Palfrey Chuckery, Caldmore and Pleck the next day.
The group returned to Wrexham before coming back to the area being driven by Delaney on October 17 when a police officer spotted it and signalled for the driver to stop. The driver did not and the officer had to stop the pursuit due to it being in a residential area of Wolverhampton.
The car was abandoned next to Victoria Park in Darlaston and the defendants got on public transport back to Wrexham before being arrested at a later date.
Burglar gives fake name
Thomas Wall was also sentenced for perverting the course of justice after previously being sentenced in the name of James Smith and giving an address in Luton, then not cooperating with probation.
His real identity was only discovered when he was arrested for the more recent matter.
Gareth Roberts, defending Connors, said he is an Irish national who had a difficult childhood with bullying and came to the UK to marry his fiancé.
Eric Lamb, defending Michael Wall, said he struggled with a cocaine addiction and does not remember the two occupants in the houses, while Thomas Wall's representative, Khadim Al'Hassan, said his client came to the UK following "difficulties" in Ireland and that his time in custody has had a "profound affect on him".
Recorder Ben Williams said: "The inevitable inference is you wold have come back if you hadn't been interrupted."
Connors, 23, of Ruthin Road, Wrexham, was given six years and two months in prison for conspiracy to commit burglary.
Delaney, 29, from Griffin Road, Wrexham was handed four-and-a-half months in prison, which he has already served on remand, for handling stolen goods. He was also disqualified from driving for six months and will have to take an extended retest due to previous convictions for driving while disqualified and driving without insurance.
Michael Wall, 26, of Griffin Road, Wrexham, was sentenced to six years in prison for conspiracy to commit burglary.
And Thomas Wall, 23, of Griffin Road, Wrexham, was given six years and eight months for conspiracy to commit burglary and a separate count of perverting the course of justice.
Time already spent on remand will count towards their sentences.