A Corby man who admitted breaking into a pub and smashing the fruit machine to steal cash has been jailed.
Stephen Hill, 32, was dubbed Corby’s most wanted man after being linked to dozens of smash-and-grab raids in the town.
He was finally tracked down hiding under a blanket in a car on the town’s Lincoln estate in December before he was charged over four incidents as part of Operation Trebuchet, an inquiry into the crime wave.
At Northampton Crown Court on Monday (June 10) he was cleared of three incidents - two on the judge’s direction and one by a jury in just 16 minutes.
But he had already pleaded guilty to burgling the Beefeater in Little Colliers Field on October 4, making off with £146 after jemmying open a door.
Today (Wednesday) judge Rebecca Crane jailed him for 32 months. He was sentenced to 24 months for the burglary and an extra eight months for breaching a suspended sentence.
He has been on remand since December meaning he has already served the equivalent of a one-year term.
The jury was shown CCTV footage of a dark car pulling up outside the popular Marston’s pub in the early hours of September 29. A man got out and smashed a window before reaching inside. He was disturbed and made off.
Days later on October 1 the pub was burgled. CCTV showed the same car pulling up before a man broke into the pub and smashed a fruit machine, taking £300.
The car on the footage, a BMW 3 Series, was later recovered by police at a garage in Grimsby Close, just 60m from Hill’s Gainsborough Road home.
But Hill’s DNA, found on a window and mirror, was not the only recovered from the vehicle. Blood matching that of the car’s registered owner, Daniel Bates, was found on the driver’s door.
When interviewed Mr Bates said he sold the vehicle to a man from Corby but had not changed the vehicle’s registration details because he was still awaiting some payment. He said the blood was a result of an injury he suffered while working on the car and declined to name the man he sold the car to.
Defending, Tom Worden argued that Hill - who did not take the stand - had no case to answer as the evidence was ‘vague and tenuous’.
Judge Rebecca Crane agreed and ordered a jury to find Hill not guilty over the two Spread Eagle incidents.
And later in the afternoon the jury of nine women and three men took just 16 minutes to find him unanimously not guilty of a third allegation.
St James Snooker Club in St James Road was broken into on October 21, with £250 stolen from a fruit machine.
CCTV showed a man with a woollen hat entering through the beer garden in the minutes before the money was stolen.
A hat with Hill’s DNA on was recovered from near the perimeter fence of the crime scene.
But Mr Worden said that there was no evidence that the hat found was the hat worn by the man who burgled the snooker club. Hill let out a whoop of delight as he was found not guilty.