Jail for Barnstaple burglar who raided homes during coronavirus lockdown

Martyn Oliver was jailed for the raids which took place during lockdown.

Martyn Oliver was jailed for the raids which took place during lockdown. - Credit: Police

A lockdown burglar has been jailed after one of his raids left a victim so frightened of getting coronavirus that she disinfected her house.

Martyn Oliver went on a night time crime spree in Barnstaple when the rest of Britain was following Government advice to stay at home.

He broke into three houses and a shed and stole thousands of pounds worth of goods including a retirement present watch which he was wearing when police arrested him.

He was caught because of a communal effort by people living in the Silverwood Heights area of the town to share CCTV on social media and help the police identify him.

Police raided his home in a neighbouring street within hours of his last two raids and found much of the loot there.

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They were just in time because he received a text while they were there which warned him that the CCTV of his raids was all over social media.

Oliver, aged 47, of Heppenstall Road, Barnstaple, admitted four burglaries and was jailed for two years and six months by Judge Marcus Pilgerstorfer, QC, at Exeter Crown Court.

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He told him: “You have a really bad history of thefts and it is clear that drugs are a long standing issue lying behind your offending.”

Heather Hope, prosecuting, said two of the raids were on homes in Silverwood Heights, one on a house in Longmeadow Drive, and one on a shed in Heppenstall Road where a DJ stored more than £2,000 worth of sound equipment.

All the raids were in the early hours of the morning during April and May and Oliver targeted houses with insecure doors or windows.

Three of the victims did not even call the police at first because they were worried about using valuable emergency service resources during the pandemic.

They only contacted them when they realised that neighbours had CCTV which could identify the intruder.

Items stolen included house and car keys, cash, a digital camera, laptops including one with irreplaceable family photos, and a valuable watch which had been given as a retirement present after 25 years work at a local firm.

Oliver was found with it on his wrist when he was arrested.

One female victim made an impact statement saying she no longer feels safe at home and is angry at the intrusion during the Covid lockdown.

Miss Hope said: “This happened during the lockdown and it made me feel really anxious that a stranger had been in my house and concerned he could have brought the virus with him. I spent a day disinfecting the property.”

Michael Brown, defending, said Oliver has a long-standing drug problem but has tackled it successfully in the past and is capable of remaining crime free if he does so again.

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