A prolific burglar who targeted rural homes across the Welwyn Hatfield area has been given a last chance to break free from the cycle of crime.

At St Albans Crown Court for a deferred sentence, prosecutor Francis Gaskin revealed how John Vanner, formerly of Comet Way in Hatfield, had committed multiple burglaries between October 2021 and February 2022.

These included several London primary schools and a rural residence in Great Tey, near Colchester, where a pregnant woman returned home with her one-year-old child to discover the property had been ransacked.

The break-ins also included a burglary in Willow Corner, Bayford, when £10,000 worth of jewellery was stolen, a break-in at Dellsome Lane, Welham Green, when wedding and engagement rings and wallets were stolen – with bank cards subsequently used in supermarkets – and a burglary in Bluebridge Road, Brookmans Park, during which the 88-year-old resident awoke to find Vanner in his home.


Vanner asked for a further 55 other offences to be taken into account.

The court heard Vanner, 58, had endured a difficult childhood resulting in class A drug use and a long history of criminal behaviour, with 40 convictions for 107 offences, including 24 domestic burglaries.

Defending, Oliver Newman said that after Vanner was arrested and detained he began a Choices and Consequences (C2) probation programme, which aims to offer persistent and prolific criminals a realistic chance to break free from the cycle of crime.

Participants can have their sentences deferred for up to six months while undertaking an extensive rehabilitation regime, including drug treatment, life skills training, education and employment.


Judge Lana Wood approved Vanner moving into the next phase of the programme - three years community rehabilitation - which includes 200 hours unpaid work.

“He knows this is his last chance to avoid his previous pattern of custody,” Mr Newman said.

Judge Wood said: "You have an awful lot to lose, and recognise you’re too old to spend the rest of your life in and out of custody. It’s not an easy environment. You’ve been given every chance, and it’s now up to you whether you grab those chances.

"I’m going to keep a close eye on you. The next six months will be make or break."