'Britain's most prolific burglar' back behind bars
PUBLISHED: 06:50 29 May 2015 | UPDATED: 14:38 01 June 2015
A notorious burglar has been jailed for another six years for breaking into a retired couple's Sidmouth home - just 16 days after he was given early release.
Simon Berkowitz had a self-confessed addiction to breaking into other people’s houses and has committed at least 250 break-ins during a 54-year criminal career.
He is thought to be Britain’s most prolific burglar and his most famous crime was trying to sell stolen documents about Paddy Ashdown’s affair with his secretary just weeks before the 1992 General Election after a burglary at his solicitor’s office.
Berkowitz had been out of prison for barely two weeks when he returned to Devon in search of properties to burgle.
He broke into the Hillside Road home of pensioners John and Ann Searle on November 5 last year while they were away on holiday.
He left no clues at the scene but was trapped by CCTV when he used Mr Searle’s stolen bank cards to obtain £1,100 in the space of 12 hours at cash machines in Sidmouth and Exmouth.
Berkowitz was only caught when police issued his picture to local papers and television channels and he was spotted by a member of the public having Sunday lunch in Sidmouth. Police arrested him on the seafront carrying a rucksack containing a burgling kit.
Berkowitz denied burgling the house and told Exeter Crown Court he had no need to steal because he inherited £4,000 from his mother, who died during his last jail sentence. He said he found the bank cards with their PIN numbers on slips of paper which were conveniently attached with elastic bands.
The jury took less than an hour to convict him after hearing his list of previous convictions.
Berkowitz, 68, of Fourth Avenue, Hove, denied burglary but admitted handling and five counts of using the bank cards fraudulently.
He was found guilty and jailed for six years by Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, who told him: “In your evidence you said you felt sorry for all the people you have burgled over the years. I find that to be completely and utterly false.
“You do not feel the least bit of sympathy for what you have done. It is perfectly obvious you have no regrets or remorse whatsoever. Burglary is your chosen way of life. This one took place barely two weeks after your release.
“You are a persistent burglar. You have an appalling record and it is extremely likely you will continue to offend.”
The jury heard how Mr and Mrs Searle returned from holiday on the night of November 5 to find the card and a diary containing the PIN numbers had been stolen along with cash, jewellery and their son’s christening medal.
Berkowitz told the jury he had been prompted to go straight by the death of his mother, but had fallen into temptation after finding the stolen cards in a shelter on Sidmouth seafront.
He used some of the stolen money to stay in hotels - but had £1,200 on him when he was arrested.
He denied carrying out the burglary itself, despite admitting to the jury that a psychologist had told him some years ago he had an incurable compulsion to steal.