A teenager took part in two burglaries in a week, both said to have “professional hallmarks”, targeting a farmhouse and a property containing a safe, earlier this year.

Tom Beeston, then aged 19, may have been acting on information from within the criminal underworld in targeting the properties burgled.

A high value vehicle was stolen from a farm barn in east Durham and the safe, containing more than £14,000, was taken from a house on the outskirts of Bishop Auckland.

Co-accused Kearan Briggs and Shay Johnson were also involved in the removal of the safe, from the home of an 83-year-old man, who was briefly away from the property during the day-time when the trio struck.

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Durham Crown Court was told Beeston was on bail at the time of the two burglaries, over his role in a group attack on a man in Peterlee, in which a knife was used, almost 18 months earlier.

Martin Towers, prosecuting, said a woman living close to Thackmyers Farm, Castle Eden, was awoken by the barking of a dog, at about midnight between February 6 and 7.

She heard door handles rattling and male voices outside, so she banged on the window and then saw three figures, all wearing face coverings, running from the address.

The Northern Echo: Tom Beeston, left, and Kearan Briggs, both jailed for burglary at Durham Crown Court

Noticing they had entered the garage of her brother-in-law, who lives on the nearby farm, she alerted him at 12.20am.

He went downstairs to find all the doors and cupboards had been opened, while his step-son’s Ford Ranger vehicle had been taken from a barn on the site.

The keys to the £30,000-value vehicle had been removed from the farm house, along with tools and a bread knife.

Beeston was linked to the crime following examination of a foot marking left on a conservatory doorstep.

In a victim statement the farm owner said he and his family had lived at the property for 23 years without issue, “keeping themselves to themselves”.

He said the burglars had gone through every room in the property and he was only relieved he did not disturb or confront the intruders, given that they had taken the bread knife.

In the aftermath of the offence he said he had difficulty sleeping.

Mr Towers said CCTV captured Beeston driving, while disqualified, a Vauxhall Astra, at a filling station in Gilesgate, Durham, the following evening, having been recognised by a police officer.

Shortly after 12.20am the following morning a woman walking home in Gilesgate heard what sounded like a collision and a loud revving, before seeing the same Astra.

Mr Towers said her observations would appear to have been the “before and after” of the theft of a Honda motorcycle in the vicinity.

The court heard that a tracker device on the motorbike helped police to trace it to a farm in Station Town, belonging to a family member of Beeston, where the Astra was also located.

When an officer arrived the defendant and accomplices were trying to modify the motorbike.

They tried to flee on foot, but Beeston was found hiding in a shed.

While on bail for those offences, Beeston, along with Briggs and Johnson, took part in the break-in at a house in the South Church area of Bishop Auckland, between 9.25 and 10.10am on February 13, while the elderly occupier was away from home.

The safe, containing £14,200 belonging to the householder's daughter, had been removed from a bedroom wardrobe by the time of his return.

Examination of cctv footage revealed three offenders, wearing face coverings and carrying a crow-bar, leaving the house with the safe.

It was later found emptied, with the door forced open and the crow bar alongside, at the same farm building in Station Town.

The victim, nearing 84, who still works, said he had never previously been burgled and could not face using the bedroom, so slept in a chair downstairs in the aftermath of the break-in, which left him feeling “insecure” in his own home.

He said he was uninsured and could not afford to pay back the money to his daughter.

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Beeston, now 20, of Emerson Square, Thornley, admitted two counts each of burglary and vehicle theft, plus driving while disqualified as well as a charge of affray, relating to the attack in Peterlee, in August 2021.

Daniel Ingham, for Beeston, said at the time of the offences the defendant was aged only 18 or 19, and has been in custody since his arrest after the safe burglary, in February.

But Mr Ingham said Beeston has “only has himself to blame” for missing out on milestones in the lives of family members.

Briggs, 22, of Front Street, Shotton Colliery, and Johnston 19, of Front Street, Station Town, both admitted the South Church house burglary.

Damian Broadbent, representing both, said Briggs, who has previous offences, including robbery, on his record, has spent four months in custody following 112 days on a tagged curfew.

Mr Broadbent said Johnson has no previous offences and was, “clearly not the brains behind the operation”, acting under the influence of more sophisticated co-accused.

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Judge James Adkin said there were “professional hallmarks” with both burglaries and it would appear the defendants were acting on information obtained within the criminal underworld to pick their targets

Beeston was given prison sentences totalling 50 months, while Briggs received a 36-month sentence, and, as Judge Adkin accepted he was the least criminally sophisticated, Johnson received a 15-month sentence, suspended for two years, with a six-month 7am to 7pm home curfew.

He must also complete 30 rehabilitation activity days with the Probation Service.