Nearly £20,000 of jewels and gold including irreplaceable sentimental family heirlooms was stolen from four properties, including one in Frodsham, while the thief was working as a domestic cleaner.
Nico Jones, 23, of Earls Way, Hallwood Park, Runcorn struck once in Frodsham, twice in Runcorn and once in Widnes while employed with Cinderellas cleaners in August and September.
Chester Crown Court heard on Tuesday that cannabis-addicted Jones resorted to crime to pay off his drug debts, wracked up from his £50-£60 a day habit.
Mandy Nepal, prosecuting, said the sum value of stolen jewellery totalled £19,473, based on victim valuations and police estimates.
Kay Woodburn, of Frodsham, discovered a gold bangle was missing after Jones had worked twice in her home, with her suspicions confirmed by Cinderellas.
Nicole Hayton, of Runcorn, was approached by police who showed her suspected-stolen items, some of which she identified as her daughter’s including a triple-stone ring and some of her own rings.
Jacqueline Watkins, of Runcorn, found out 24 items had been stolen from her jewellery box, which were traced to a pawn shop to sell or be kept as pledges.
Eight items were recovered but the rest had been sold.
Laura Leatherbarrow, of Widnes, was Jones’s fourth victim as the thieving cleaner pilfered items from her bedroom drawers while she worked downstairs.
The offences came to light when the cleaning company contacted her to find out if anything was missing, and she found out that items given to her by her parents missing, with the distress compounded by her mother’s death just days after learning of Jones’s iniquity.
Two victims provided impact statements.
Mrs Leatherbarrow said she ‘feels very sorry for the boy’ and ‘hopes he sorts himself out by getting the help he needs’ but she remains unable to separate thoughts of her mother’s passing from the crime.
She said also changed her locks and cleaning company, which ‘added to the stress’ as did initial problems with the insurance company, with her distress during the period described as ‘horrendous’.
Mrs Watkins said she felt ‘violated’ and also ‘extremely hurt’ that Jones had commit the offence while she was paying him, adding that as a Christian she ‘struggled to reconcile her beliefs with her feelings’.
Miss Nepal said Jones had motoring convictions from 2015 for driving over the drug-drive limit, not in accordance with his licence and without insurance.
Jeremy Rawson, defending, said his client had admitted the thefts at the first opportunity, had no previous relevant convictions and ‘bitterly regrets’ his offending.
Jones pleased guilty to four charges of theft from a dwelling on December 20 at North Cheshire Magistrates’ Court.
His Honour Judge Patrick Thompson, presiding, sentenced Jones to 20 months concurrent on each of the four charges.
Sending him down, he said: “You targeted items of jewellery of very significant value, almost £20,000, and you stole from four individuals.
“The reason you put forward is you were in considerable debt because for some time have had a significant cannabis addiction and a habit costing £50-£60 a day.
“That led to you falling into debt to drug dealers and you sold those items to satisfy those debts.”
He added: “Jacqueline Watkins talks of the stress you have caused, the feeling of violation of somebody being in her home and going through her personal effects and you have stolen every piece of gold from the house.
“She reflects she has nothing to pass on to her daughter from their father.
“That’s a result of you and your dishonest behaviour.”