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Burglar who broke into three homes in 24 hours apologises to victim in court

Crime | Published:

A former gamekeeper who turned burglar apologised from prison to one of the victims of three frightening night-time breaks-ins.

Mark Cunningham

One victim said in an impact statement that as a Christian he felt no hatred towards 50-year-old Mark Cunningham but the distress he had left behind meant "it will take a long time to get back to a normal life".

The 72-year-old victim sat in the public seats at Caernarfon crown court and Cunningham, appearing via video link from Altcourse prison, said: "Can I offer an apology while he's in court, please?"

Cunningham, of Berwyn Street, Llangollen, was jailed for four years and three months after pleading guilty to three burglaries, assaulting a PC and PCSO to resist arrest, and possessing a police captor spray, which he had grabbed and used against the two officers.

Dafydd Roberts, prosecuting, said two burglaries occurred on December 29 and one the following night.

The first was at 4.15am at a family home in Froncysyllte, Wrexham. A valuable haul included a 50-inch tv, three mobile phones, an iPad and wallet.

The court was also told that at 5am a Llangollen resident woke up, shouted to an intruder to get out, and discovered items missing from the kitchen and living room including an iPad, iPhone and a digital radio.

On December 30, the victim who was present in court, whose 12-year-old granddaughter had been staying with him, discovered that overnight a 50-inch tv, wallet, £100 cash and other items had been taken.

Mr Roberts said that on that day PC Sarah Smith spotted Cunningham taking property into his home from a Fiat Punto.

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She told him he was under arrest and asked PCSO Karl Joseph to handcuff him.

There was a scuffle and PC Smith decided to use incapacitant spray but the defendant grabbed it from her and sprayed the officers' faces. However with the help of members of the public he was overpowered.

The barrister said one victim's impact statement stated he'd gone downstairs "with a growing sense of dread" when he realised someone was in the house. His wife had been distraught and their three children had become fearful of the dark.

"My son was so upset he gathered his toy swords in case the burglar came back," it stated.

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Cunningham had 25 previous convictions, including for twelve burglaries, the last in 2005 when he got 54 months.

Simon Killeen, defending, described how during the prison term Cunningham had managed to clean himself of a heroin addiction.

Afterwards he got a job as gamekeeper on a Llangollen estate, with a house included, but returned to his addiction because of his grief at the death of a close relative.

This proved catastrophic and he lost his job and home. Mr Killeen said he was "deeply ashamed" of the burglaries.

Passing sentence, Judge Huw Rees said it would have been "distressing" for the officers to be sprayed in the face.

He said: "What you stole were items which were well chosen for you to make money to spend on whatever was your addiction at the time."

He sentenced Cunningham to 45 months for the burglaries and an additional six months for the offences involving the two officers.

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