A PAIR of bungling burglars led police to their hideout with a trail of cigarettes.
John Collins and John Campbell stole £3,647.94 worth of cigarettes from a newsagents in Sunderland.
Newcastle Crown Court heard how Collins, 54, and Campbell, 45, smashed their way into The One Shop, on Sea Road, Fulwell, in the early hours of August 15 last year.
At 3.43am Collins and Campbell, along with a third accomplice, snatched an estimated 700 packets of cigarettes.
But police were able to follow a trail of tabs, which led them to Campbell’s home, in Osborne Street, in Fulwell.
Graham O’Sullivan, prosecuting, said: “The shop alarm had been sounding, police attended and discovered a forced entry to the shop which had been locked and protected by shutters.
“Cigarettes had been stolen and police initially followed a trail of cigarettes which led to the rear lane of Osborne Street.
“They also found a car registration plate and a plastic shelving unit similar to those used to display cigarettes.”
The shop’s key entry box, door mechanism and internal and external cameras were all damaged in the raid.
CCTV footage from the store showed three people, one identified as Campbell.
Police went to his home where they found five other people, including Collins, and a large quantity of cigarettes.
Campbell was arrested and became aggressive, kicking out at the handbrake and passenger door of a police car.
Collins’ fingerprints had been found on the recovered shelving and he was also arrested.
Despite denying the break-in, Campbell pleaded guilty to burglary and criminal damage at an earlier hearing and Collins admitted burglary three days before his case was due to go to trial.
The court heard Campbell, who works as a roofer, has 32 previous convictions for theft.
Collins, who has the same job, has 14 previous offences, including one of shoplifting whilst on bail for this charge.
David Callan, defending for Campbell, said: “This was a drunken escapade.
“There was a trail of cigarettes from the shops which was burgled to the flat where he was, which is not exactly professional.
“He has now given up drink, he realises that has been the cause of his problems.”
Lewis Kerr, defending for Collins said: “He knows that the only step forward is to put the offending behind him.
“He looks after his elderly mother.”
Campbell was given an eight month prison sentence, suspended for two years. He was also ordered to complete a 12 month supervision requirement, given a three month electronic curfew between the hours of 10pm and 6am and was fined £1,000.
Collins, of Trimdon Street, Sunderland, was given a five month prison sentence, suspended for two years, a three month electronic curfew between the hours of 10pm and 3am and was fined £500.
Passing sentence, Judge Kershaw said: “Your crime was to put together a team to break into a local newsagent, using tools, smashing the cameras outside and inside and you stole cigarettes to the value of three and a half thousand pounds.
“This is a serious case, you both know that.
“Whilst the value of the property isn’t the highest, it is high in relation to the corner shop.
“It’s the sort of offence which sometimes puts a business beyond economical hope and if the business closes the community loses the benefit and value of having a local shop, so the harm could be quite substantial.”