A THIEF started a fire in a churchyard to burn personal papers he had stolen in a burglary.
Robert Chadwick, 33, smashed his way in to a house at Britannia Terrace, Fencehouses, last April and stole precious jewellery as well as documents.
Newcastle Crown Court heard while police were at the house responding to the report of a break-in, neighbours near St. Andrew’s Church in the town raised the alarm about a fire in the grounds.
When police went to Chadwick’s home as a result of a tip-off, there was a strong smell of petrol in the room and on his clothes.
Chadwick, of The Falls, Houghton, admitted burglary and arson.
The court heard the householder was left £2,000 out of pocket as a result of the raid and lost sentimental items including a wedding ring and gold chain. The victim told police: “The things taken from me have personal value and can never be replaced.”
The court heard while the fire in the churchyard caused alarm to those living nearby, nobody was put at risk from the flames.
Judge Penny Moreland jailed Chadwick for 18 months.
The judge told him: “You stole property from his home that included items of sentimental value which can never be replaced.
“You caused him a great deal of distress and upset and he continues to suffer as a result of what you did.”
Tom Moran, defending, said Chadwick was a hard-working, married dad who started committing offences when his marriage broke up and he lost his job.
He said Chadwick was ready to “sort himself out”.