A 34-year-old Leicester man who helped a burglar during a thieving ‘Tour of Britain’ has been sentenced to a suspended 20 month jailed term for his involvement in three break-ins across Gloucestershire.

Prosecutor Neil Treharne told Gloucester Crown Court yesterday (Oct 30) that Liam Thompson of Heathcott Road, Leicester, was the last of five defendants to be sentenced for a series of raids that were committed around the country under the direction of Darren Smart, aged 47.

Thompson played a part in house burglaries in Slimbridge and Wotton Under Edge, nr Dursley, and at Newent on the edge of the Forest of Dean.

Smart, who was based in Leicestershire, was recently jailed for three years and nine months for the offences which were dubbed a burglary ‘Tour of Britain’, targeting wealthy homes that had recently been built or renovated. The crimes were committed across the country from Suffolk and Lincolnshire to Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, and Oxfordshire.

Mr Treharne said: “As Smart travelled the country he recruited vulnerable individuals, especially those with mental health issues. Thompson, who fitted this description, was only concerned with two burglaries in the Gloucestershire are and it is evident he played second fiddle to Smart.

“On October 22, 2020 at around 11.45am Gloucestershire police noticed a blue Ford Focus, with a Leicestershire number plate, driving along the A4135 near Tetbury and felt that the occupants appeared to be ‘chilled’ and were deliberately shielding their faces from the police.

“At around midday police were called by a neighbour of a property in Slimbridge who had a feeling that the two men had come to burgle the house. The witness describes how the blue vehicle had driven up the substantial driveway to the property. One of the men when confronted by the neighbour said that thought they had arrived at the correct address in Cheltenham.

“The police were then made aware that a burglary that had taken place in Wotton-Under-Edge earlier that day, for which Smart and another man were believed to have been the perpetrator. The home owner returned home and reported that an untidy search had been made of the property.

“The intruders had smashed the patio door to gain entry and had left numerous footprints. Two watches were stolen and several boxes of his late wife’s jewellery had also been taken.

“At around 1pm on the same day the homeowner of a property at Culver Street, Newent returned home after lunch and as she entered the kitchen she noticed broken glass and heard banging from another room, whereupon Smart ran towards the woman.

“He ran right past her but slipped up and fell onto the broken glass. He got up and made his escape through the broken glass and met up with Thompson, who was waiting outside, and together they make their escape in a blue Ford Focus.

“The woman realised that Smart had made an untidy search of the property and that items of jewellery had been stolen, including three rings - a sapphire diamond ring, a diamond trilogy ring and a diamond and platinum engagement ring - as well as the key fob to a high value car.”

The court heard that police put an alert out for the Ford Fiesta, which was later stopped by West Mercia Police at 2.30pm after officers had received an alert from the automatic number plate recognition camera.

When the vehicle was stopped Thompson was found to have a number of watches in his possession and his DNA was later found at the burglary scenes.

Mr Treharne concluded: “Smart seems to have a knack of picking certain types of housing, those that are isolated and have recently been renovated and he believes would have expensive quality items inside the property.

“Unfortunately for Thompson, he was dragged into this. There was a lot of stolen property on that day. It is accepted that he had a limited role.”

Charley Pattison, defending said: “Thompson has been plagued by mental illnesses throughout his life. He is currently in remission and is remorseful about getting himself involved. A number of references have been submitted on his behalf.

“As has already been stated he had a minor role in this operation.”

Judge Ian Lawrie KC interjected: “I have little doubt that Smart took advantage of Thompson and others like him to commit burglaries across the Midlands, Gloucestershire and beyond. Smart is calculating and devious and spots people like Thompson from a mile away and exploits them for his own end.”

Thompson admitted to the court his involvement in the three burglaries in Slimbridge, Wotton-Under-Edge and Newent on October 22, 2020.

Judge Lawrie told Thompson that he needed to choose better company in the future and added: “I’m not sentencing you to an immediate custodial term because of your vulnerability. I have dealt with all the other defendants in all the other burglaries and it is obvious that you were exploited. Smart took you along in the slip stream of his offending.

“Smart is being punished with a substantial prison term but you qualify for a suspended sentence because of the mitigation submitted on your behalf and you have not been in trouble since.”

The judge sentenced Thompson to a prison term of 20 months and suspended it for 18 months.