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'Despicable' burglar who preyed on elderly jailed

By Chronicle Reporters Friday 30th May 2014

A "despicable" distraction burglar who targeted old folk in the Barnsley area has been jailed for seven years.


It is the second time that Christopher Hepple, 35, has received a lengthy jail term for preying on the vulnerable and elderly.


He dressed up in a high visibility yellow jacket, work trousers and carried a clipboard and identification tag around his neck claiming he was from the Gas Board.


Once inside the pensioners' homes he took the opportunity to rifle their belongings and steal whatever he could.


His victims were aged from 73 to 91 and lived alone.


Hepple, of Dixon Crescent, Balby, Doncaster, admitted two burglaries and an attempt burglary in Doncaster and Barnsley and asked for a further eight burglaries to be considered including five in Cudworth with the other three in Doncaster, Monk Bretton and Goldthorpe.


He was jailed for five years at Sheffield Crown Court in 2008 for ten similar distraction burglaries.


Neil Coxon, prosecuting, said Hepple went to a semi-detached bungalow at Ravenholt, Worsbrough, on April 24 where June Swift, 83, lived alone.


He asked for a cup of tea as he checked a radiator and while the victim was out of sight stole her handbag containing ID cards and £200 to £300 in cash.


Hepple struck for a third time two days later when he was seen behaving suspiciously by a member of the public in Gray Street, Elsecar.


The thief asked for directions to Gray Street yet had just come from that direction so the witness called the police.


Undeterred Hepple was invited into the one-bedroom council bungalow of George Stewart who has chronic arthritis.


Mr Stewart thought he looked official but after Hepple went into the bedroom a police car drove past and Hepple quickly disappeared.


Officers soon caught up with Hepple who was dressed in his trademark high visibility jacket, trousers and with an ID badge around his neck.


He was found to have tools with him and was arrested, said Mr Coxon.


In interview he was candid and admitted he had dressed up as a distraction to allow him to gain access to properties which he then burgled.


Andrew Smith, defending, said Hepple accepted what he had done and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
He had helped the police in clearing up all the offences.


He had settled down in 2010 after release from his last sentence and worked as a maintenance man in the care industry.


But he lost his job and applied for benefits but did not receive any money. "In these desperate straits he committed these offences," said Mr Smith.


Judge Paul Watson told Hepple: "You dressed yourself to give an appearance of officialdom to trick them into allowing you into their homes. These are extremely serious and mean offences.


"Offences of this kind can only be described as despicable. Society requires that the elderly are protected from people like you. You plainly did not learn your lesson last time."