A Coventry woman was away celebrating her father’s 90th birthday in Yorkshire when the happy family occasions was ruined by a call telling her that her home had been broken into.
Burglar James Beard had cut through part of the back door surrounding the cat flap to crawl in before taking 15 bottles of alcohol worth around £300 and a holdall.
But he was arrested after a spot of his blood was found on the broken door, and at Warwick Crown Court he pleaded guilty to the burglary of the house in Earlsdon Avenue South, Coventry.
Beard (46) of Barnstaple Court, Milton Keynes, who said he was staying with friends in Coventry at the time, was jailed for 41 weeks.
Prosecutor Ian Windridge said that in September last year the householders went away for a short break to Yorkshire for a family celebration to mark the wife’s father’s 90th birthday.
They had arranged for friends to pop in twice a day to feed the cats – and everything was in order when the friends did so on the morning of September 6.
But when they retuned that afternoon they found the section of the back door around the cat flap had been enlarged, there was a broken bottle of wine on the kitchen floor, and the house had been searched.
It turned out that 15 bottles of alcohol, including some which had been bought ready to be used as Christmas presents, had been stolen, together with a canvas holdall.
A spot of blood on the cat flap and a fingerprint on the broken wine bottle led to Beard being identified, but when he was arrested he declined to be interviewed.
He then pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea on the day of his trial, pointed out Mr Windridge.
In a victim statement, the woman said the burglary had ruined what might have been the family’s last such holiday because her father’s dementia was getting worse.
Beard, who had one previous conviction for burglary when he was jailed for eight weeks by Aylesbury magistrates for forcing his way into his ex-partner’s home and taking her purse.
The court heard he had entered his plea on the basis that he had not taken anything with him to carry out the break-in.
Giving evidence, Beard said he had been ‘laying low’ with friends in Coventry because he was in some trouble in Aylesbury, and had been on his way to the station when he went round the back of the house and broke in.
He denied having gone their equipped to carry out the break-in, and said he had used a pair of secateurs he had found in the garden to cut the hole in the door.
But that was rejected by Deputy Judge Richard Griffith-Jones, who said: “I don’t believe that. I am sure it is not true. He was out looking for something to get to buy drugs.”
And jailing Beard, the judge told him: “You may have had a need to get hold of cash or to steal property to get cash so you could satisfy your own cravings.
“But in doing that, you caused a great deal of upset to householders who had gone away for a holiday.
“You have done far more than ruining their holiday, and far more than stealing their wine, you have robbed them of their peace of mind. They will come back wondering whether it’s happened again when they go on holiday again.”