TWO career criminals who stole priceless antiques from a 79-year-old woman’s home have been jailed.

The Recorder of Middlesbrough, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton said the burglary by Andrew Maclaren and Christopher West involved a degree of pre-planning and rejected claims they acted on impulse.

Duncan Mullarkey, prosecuting, told Teesside Crown Court how the mid-terrace property in Redcar had been the victim’s home since 1936 and it had been inherited from her parents.

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The pair smashed a hall window to enter and searched every room. Items stolen included a brass lamp, a large brass tray, plates and a metal horn.

The woman, who now lives in a care home, spoke movingly of the impact of the burglary in a statement, saying she had found the experience “horrible”.

“You cannot put a value on something that is priceless," she said. "A lot of the items are rare and the house is the last link to my parents and sister.

“I cannot understand why anybody would want to do this. I am elderly and find it very difficult to accept.”

Maclaren, 35, initially denied he was at the house but police found some of the stolen items in his flat.

Forensic scientists also found a perfect match to a footwear impression West had left behind. However, he told police someone else must have been using his shoes.

Both men eventually admitted burglary on January 28 this year and breaching suspended jail sentences imposed days earlier – Maclaren for stealing a television from an unsecured flat and West for handling stolen goods.

Nigel Soppitt, for West, aged 31, of High Street West, Redcar, said he had been homeless and entered the house to find somewhere to sleep.

The barrister suggested he could be given a further suspended sentence as he had already spent five months in custody.

His co-accused Maclaren, of Lincoln Road, Redcar, who committed his first burglary aged 15, publically apologised to his victim and was said to be “turning a corner” with his offending.

Recorder Bourne-Arton activated a nine-month suspended jail sentence on Maclaren, jailing him for four and-a-half years, and did the same with a four-month suspended jail sentence on West. He was imprisoned for two years, five months.