A PROLIFIC burglar who targeted pensioners from across North and East Yorkshire has been jailed for five-and-a-half years.

David Robert Brown, 29, and two other men got away with more than £28,000 in jewellery, some of it of sentimental value to its owners, laptops and electronic items in 15 raids in 20 days.

They also caused damage of more than £10,000 as they disabled security devices, broke into homes and ransacked them. The youngest victim was 60 years old, York Crown Court heard .

Brown, of Rotherham, pleaded guilty to six conspiracies to burgle covering 15 burglaries, including homes in Norton, near Malton, where the victims were 74 and 65, Brayton, near Selby, where the victim was 66, Market Weighton, where the victim was aged 62, and Shiptonthorpe in East Yorkshire, where the victim was 70.

Rachael Landin, prosecuting, said the gang’s crimes ended when a member of the public spotted a Ford Mondeo being driven in and out of cul-de-sacs in Norton at 6.15pm on October 23. They tipped off police who caught Brown at the wheel on Hambleton Road in the town.

In the car were jewellery and other items stolen in the last burglary, together with housebreaking tools and equipment. The other two members of the gang were caught running away nearby.

Brown was on parole from an eight-year sentence for possessing a sawn-off shotgun and drug and driving offences and was recalled to prison. The other two fled to Europe after they were released on bail. English police are trying to get them extradited back to the UK.

Judge Guy Kearl QC said: “These properties were specifically targeted.

They were targeted because they had elderly occupants. The occupants were often away on holiday at the time. It was plainly a professional operation.”

Of the incident when a 94-year-old woman woke in the night to see a man searching her bedroom in a Lincolnshire village, he said: “That must have been a truly terrifying experience for her at her time of her life.”

Miss Landin said the woman was so terrified, she did not dare to sleep in her house for some nights and stayed at friends instead.

For Brown, Digby Johnson said he was willing to do “whatever is necessary” to get drugs and was known as “gullible Dave”. He had been paid £200 a day to act as the gang’s driver, parking out of sight of the house his fellow conspirators were raiding and picking them up afterwards.

The other two, said Mr Johnson, had longer criminal records than him and had left him to “carry the can” while they spent the proceeds of the burglaries. The judge said Brown had known what the other two were doing.