A 34-year-old man who helped a burglar during a thieving ‘Tour of Britain’ has been sentenced to a suspended 20-month jail term.

Gloucester Crown Court heard how a woman was shocked to return to her Newent home in October 2020 to find a burglar inside raiding her property. 

He ran past her and slipped over on broken glass before making his escape with jewellery, 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.

That man was Darren Smart, 47, from Leicestershire, who was recently jailed for three years and nine months for offences dubbed a burglary ‘Tour of Britain’, targeting wealthy homes that had recently been built or renovated. 

Outside he and his partner in crime Liam Thompson of Heathcott Road, Leicester - the last of five defendants to be sentenced – escaped in a blue Ford Focus getaway vehicle.

Prosecutor Neil Treharne said Smart masterminded crimes across the country from Suffolk and Lincolnshire to Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, and Oxfordshire, and Thompson played a part in two of the burglaries in Gloucestershire 

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

“At around 1pm the homeowner of a property at Culver Street 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.”

Police later learnt that they had broken into another house in Wotton-Under-Edge earmlier that day and stolen two watches and boxes of jewellery and staked out a house in Slimnbridge.

The court heard that police put an alert out for the Ford Fiesta, which was stopped by West Mercia Police that afternoon.

Thompson was found with stolen 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. 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 said: “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.”

Thompson admitted being involved in burglary on October 22, 2020.

Suspending the jail term for 18 months, Judge Lawrie 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.”