Burglar who targeted aunt's home while she was at her son's funeral is jailed
- Credit: Suffolk police
A man responsible for "a year-long spate of criminality" - including burgling his aunt's home when she was at her son's funeral - has been jailed for 11 years.
Ipswich Crown Court heard how Levi Hilden, 36, committed a string of offences between December 31, 2018, and January 8, 2020, which also included an armed robbery with another man where £25,000 worth of jewellery was stolen.
The court heard how Hilden burgled his aunt's home in Meadowlands, Kirton, on New Year's Eve on 2018 knowing that the house would be empty.
The victims of the burglary were at their son's funeral and returned home to find the back door of their house smashed and a "considerable amount of damage" inside the property, David Wilson, prosecuting, told the court.
Ornaments, watches and jewellery, worth around £8,600, were stolen from the home during the burglary, and a silver Volkswagen Beetle was reported to police as leaving the scene.
The Volkswagen was then involved in a pursuit with police, and at one point a police car was reversed into, but officers eventually lost sight of the vehicle, Mr Wilson told the court.
In victim impact statements read in court, the burglary victims said the impact of the offence had been "devastating".
On July 15, 2019, Hilden went into Boreham Christopher jewellery on Lower Brook Street in Ipswich around 3.40pm.
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The jeweller knew Hilden and spoke to him in the store before going to the back of the shop, the court heard.
Hilden then proceeded to help himself to bracelets and gold chains, worth £5,326, and leave the store. The whole incident was captured on CCTV.
On December 13, 2019, Hilden and Stuart Bocock, who was jailed for eight years at Ipswich Crown Court in November last year, pulled up outside Boots in Market Place, Sudbury.
The men were wearing ski masks and used a sledgehammer to smash glass in the main door. During the raid they stole goods including perfume and aftershave, worth £11,500.
As the pair left the store with the stolen goods in a large builder's sack, they were challenged by two members of the public, and Hilden threatened one of the men with a metal pipe when he asked what they were doing.
Five days later, a Suffolk jeweller was loading stock from his shop into the boot of his car in Quay Street, Sudbury, when Bocock, armed with an axe, ordered him to hand over a bag containing jewellery.
During the incident, Hilden puts his hands around the neck of the owner's wife, who was standing nearby.
Jewellery, worth £25,000, was stolen along with the victims' mobile phones and a handbag.
While on January 8, 2020, Hilden and Bocock forcibly entered the Nethergate Brewery in Long Melford by smashing glass in the front door.
Cabinets inside the premises were pushed over and paperwork thrown on the floor and a sledgehammer was used to break into a safe.
The men stole £3,000 from the safe, including charity cash, and damaged a car park barrier, which appeared to have been rammed.
On the same night, Hilden and Bocock broke into Hennessey Lifestyle café, in Great Whelnetham, near Bury St Edmunds, and stole several hundred pounds of cash after smashing the front door with a sledgehammer.
The court heard that Hilden, of Birkfield Drive, Ipswich, has 28 previous convictions for 83 offences between 2002 and 2020.
He previously pleaded guilty to burglary, theft, conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to burgle and threatening another with an offensive weapon.
Steven Dyble, mitigating, said Hilden had various mental health issues which stemmed from a difficult upbringing.
Sentencing Hilden on Wednesday, Judge Emma Peters called the burglary of his aunt's home "cruel, nasty and wicked".
She added: "Mr Hilden, this is a year-long spate of significant criminality, not just dishonesty, but dishonesty that has had a horrible effect on a number of people. People who have had their lives changed for some time by your inability to stay on the right side of the law."
For conspiracy to rob, Hilden was handed an 11-year sentence as well as three years for conspiracy to burgle.
He was sentenced to three years and eight months for the burglary of his aunt's home, four months for the jewellery theft and 18 months for threatening with an offensive weapon.
All sentences will be served concurrently, meaning Hilden received a total of 11 years in prison. He will have to serve two thirds of that sentence in custody before being released on licence.