Blood traces help catch Sidmouth burglar

A PROLIFIC professional burglar’s four-year crime spree was brought to an end when he left blood at the scene of a break-in at a Sidmouth family home.

Stephen Holcombe, 54, has been jailed after admitting breaking into the dwelling in Sidford Hill after an argument with his wife.

Tree surgeon Holcombe carried out a “tidy search” of the home while its owners were on holiday, stole property worth �1,130 and caused �300 damage, Exeter Crown Court heard.

He normally targeted sheds and garages because he knew that burgling them carried lower sentences - but could not resist the lure of the luxury detached dwelling when he found it empty.

Holcombe, of Taunton, admitted seven burglaries, all but one of which were on outbuildings, and asked for 13 similar offences to be considered.

The crimes took place from 2007 to 2012 in various places in Devon and Somerset.

Sentencing Holcombe to three years in prison, Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, told him: “You accept you are a professional burglar with a substantial criminal record.”

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Holcombe was brought to justice after he made a series of mistakes including leaving blood at the scene of the break-in in Sidmouth and a cigarette butt with his DNA on it outside a garage he raided near Ilfracombe.

He even boasted to police of taking photographs at the scenes of his crimes to show the premises had been insecure.

Holcombe broke into so many outhouses that whenever there was a spate of raids police would visit his home to see if any of the property was there, the court heard.

The serial burglar escaped justice for five years by repeatedly claiming to be ill whenever police called. He also missed several court dates for similar reasons, claiming on one occasion to have fallen from his loft ladder.

James Taghdissian, prosecuting, said: “It is our case he is a professional burglar who travels far and wide to commit many offences.”

Nicholas Fridd, defending, said Holcombe’s attempts to give up crime and make a living as a tree surgeon had been disrupted because police kept coming to interview him whenever there was a spate of shed thefts.