Keighley school raids gang leader behind bars

Keighley News: Stuart Walton, from Keighley, who has been jailed Stuart Walton, from Keighley, who has been jailed

The ringleader of a burglary gang that smashed its way into schools and colleges to steal computer equipment has been jailed for four years and five months.

Judge Robert Bartfield told Stuart Walton, 32: “You should be utterly ashamed,” when he locked him up at Bradford Crown Court last Thursday.

Walton, of Percy Street in Keighley, pleaded guilty to six burglary offences and two of handling stolen goods.

In the dock with him were Daniel Illingworth, 23, of Bar Lane in Riddlesden, and Michael Kenrick, 24, of Dalton Lane in Keighley.

Illingworth admitted two offences of handling stolen computers and Kenrick one offence of handling stolen computers for the benefit of another.

All three were originally charged with conspiracy to burgle, along with Laura McCullough, 24, of Khus Walk in Keighley. She was cleared of the offence when the Crown offered no evidence against her and was not present at the hearing.

Prosecutor, Andrew Dallas, said Walton had a string of previous convictions for burglary and car crime.

On March 9, 2012, he dishonestly handled three rings raided in a £180,000 burglary at Souk Jewellery in Main Street, Haworth. The diamond rings were later traced to a pawnbroker in Bradford.

Mr Dallas said the shop owner was under-insured and the burglary put her out of business.

Walton then committed the four burglaries and two attempted burglaries at schools and colleges.

Mr Dallas said: “He was the principal member of a gang carrying out targeted burglaries of schools and other educational establishments, usually in the Airedale or greater Bradford area.

“Between January, 2012, and March this year, an average of eight-and-a-half of these burglaries a month were being committed in the area.”

Walton admitted an attempted break-in at Samuel Lister Academy in Cottingley, on June 5, 2012.

On July 2 that year, he targeted Ilkley Grammar School but did not get in. Four nights later, he and his accomplices were back, stealing a laptop computer and causing damage costing £3,500 to repair.

Challenge College in Frizinghall was broken into on July 15 and a laptop was stolen, with damage costing £2,500 to repair.

Six new computers were raided from the Samuel Lister Academy on August 31, setting back the students’ work by two months.

Walton was arrested in Bingley on September 4 with tools and a torch in his car and re-bailed.

He then raided Craven College at Skipton on September 30 to take 18 Apple computers valued at more than £10,000. The stolen computers were trundled along in wheelbarrows into a vehicle.

Illingworth admitted handling them, and all three defendants admitted handling six of eight computers, valued at £11,600, stolen days later from the college.

Mr Dallas said a tracking device had been placed on one of the computers after the first burglary, and they were traced to a house in Aireworth Grove, Keighley. The three men were arrested there and the six computers recovered.

Richard Gioserano, mitigating for Walton, said he worked hard as a landscape gardener and was remorseful.

Simon Myers, for Illingworth, said he had no previous convictions and had set up his own business as a plumbing and heating engineer. He was sentenced to pay £2,000 compensation to Craven College.

Stephen Wood said Kenrick was a lorry driver who handled the computers for someone else. He was conditionally discharged and ordered to pay £1,000 costs.

Judge Bartfield told Walton: “Our educational establishments struggle hard enough to survive without the damage that you burglars did by taking their essential equipment, depriving children of what they need.”

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