Burglar behind bars after two high-value gang raids
A serial burglar has been jailed for six-and-a-half years for two high value gang raids.
Colin Ayre was one of a group of men who broke into a family home and stole property including vital college papers, identity documents and a lap top containing years of work.
The 40-year-old was also part of a gang who raided an outbuilding at Seaham Grange Farm, dressed in balaclavas, and caused a "significant amount of loss".
Ayre, of Kirklea Road, Houghton le Spring, who has previous convictions for house burglaries on his record, denied two offences of burglary, during a trial at Newcastle Crown Court but was found guilty by a jury.
He was also convicted of having and offensive weapon and dangerous driving while he was trying to get away from the police.
The court heard the raid at the family home, which is off the A19, may have been planned in advance and has had a "huge impact" on the family, who now have enhanced security.
In a victim statement, the owner said: "I feel like a prisoner in our own home. We lock ourselves in the house when we are at home.
"For 17 years we have felt completely safe. now we don't. He has invaded our home."
The residents at Seaham Grange Farm said they felt "totally violated" by the raid at the outbuilding and "completely shocked" to be a target.
Judge Sarah Mallett said the at least two of the men who carried out the Seaham Grange Farm raid were wearing balaclavas and added: "Had the householder come upon you during the course of the burglary it would have been terrifying."
Shaun Routledge, defending, said Ayre has four children and a supportive family.
But Judge Mallett told Ayre: "This has not impacted on your willingness to commit offences in or around other people's family homes."
Ayre has also been banned from driving for two-and-a-half years.