Man jailed after woman kidnapped in Welwyn during burglary spree

PUBLISHED: 13:01 05 April 2018 | UPDATED: 14:57 05 April 2018

James Connors. Picture: Herts Police

James Connors. Picture: Herts Police

Archant

A 50-year-old has been jailed after a three-man gang kidnapped two people – one in Welwyn – while embarking on a burgling spree.

A car is removed from the scene in Fulling Mill Lane, Welwyn.
Picture: Nina MorganA car is removed from the scene in Fulling Mill Lane, Welwyn. Picture: Nina Morgan

James Connors, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle, two kidnaps and dangerous driving, following the rampage on January 3 this year. The two other men are still at large.

The spree began in Ware at 10am, when the gang was spotted at the rear of a property with a spade before they stole £1,725 worth of jewellery.

Roughly an hour-and-a-half later in Saffron Walden, they were seen leaving an elderly woman’s home in a BMW following a distraction burglary.

They then completed another distraction burglary in Hertford Heath – this time targeting a 77-year-old disabled man – from whom they stole at least £12k.

A car is removed from the scene in Fulling Mill Lane, Welwyn.
Picture: Nina MorganA car is removed from the scene in Fulling Mill Lane, Welwyn. Picture: Nina Morgan

A female police officer came across the empty BMW in Hertford while the gang was burgling the home. They then re-emerged and threatened her, before racing off at speeds of over 100mph.

The car was dumped 10 minutes later in Baldock – the location of their next burglary – where they forced entry to a man’s home and demanded the keys to his car.

Judge Graham Arran said: “One of you told him he was going to be leaving with you. When he refused, he was then threatened with being stabbed.”

One of the victim’s two young sons was then grabbed by a gang member, who threatened to take him – following which the victim agreed to leave with the trio, and was eventually forced into the boot of his own car.

A car is removed from the scene in Fulling Mill Lane, Welwyn.
Picture: Nina MorganA car is removed from the scene in Fulling Mill Lane, Welwyn. Picture: Nina Morgan

They then drove to Welwyn, stopping next to a female carer in Carleton Rise, who was waiting in her car for her next appointment.

“The car you were in pulled up, her door was opened and a man climbed in to the car and told her to climb over the gear stick,” judge Arran said. “She was told not to scream. One of you was wearing a black ski mask.”

Another man then got in the car and they drove through Stevenage in convoy with the first kidnap victim’s car.

They then took the carer’s phone and threatened her – telling the petrified woman that they knew where she lived as they had seen her driving licence.

She was then crammed into the boot of her car as the “erratic” driving continued, and said she “thought she was going to die”.

Eventually both cars were abandoned at different locations and the kidnap victims managed to escape.

When Connors was later arrested he had £4,140 of cash on him and the abandoned BMW’s key.

St Albans Crown Court heard that Connors had a history of criminality dating back to 1983, which included burglary, theft and escaping from prison.

Judge Arran said: “You are in my view a career criminal, you’re a burglar of residents’ property. You’re prepared to take advantage of elderly people.

“You’re capable of being utterly ruthless and if it doesn’t work out you’re prepared to kidnap victims.”

Defending Connors, barrister Samantha Cohen said he pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and said there was no “gratuitous” violence.

“[There was] no violence other than that that achieved the objective of the enterprise, which was to take a hostage and steal a car,” she added.

Ms Cohen also said there was no indication that the crimes were targeted or sophisticated, rather they were “opportunistic”.

“He accepts this was disgusting conduct and he knows the court is going to sentence him to a long period of time,” she said.

Connors was sentenced to nine years’ prison, of which at least four-and-a-half would be served in custody, and disqualified from driving for two years.


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