A ’career burglar’ who went on a two weeks crime spree has been jailed after one of his raids almost put a community run village shop out of business

Dean Lennox smashed open the key box which volunteers at the shop at Blackawton, used to open it up and run it.

He stole charity boxes, cash and tobacco worth £1,380 and the shop’s insurers refused to pay up because they said an internal cabinet had been left unlocked, leaving the community needing to raise cash to keep the venture going.

Lennox burgled the Stokeley Farm Shop, near Torcross, the next night and stole a safe containing £10,000 and personal papers including a will, birth and wedding certificates.

He also damaged a stairway inside the shop by rolling the heavy steel safe down it before using a cage trolley to wheel it to his getaway car.

CCTV showed him using a crowbar to break open another key safe at around 3.30am before using the keys to break in. He went on to use a stolen bank card to make two contactless purchases in a supermarket.

Lennox, 38, of Foxlands Walk, Torquay, admitted two burglaries, handling, criminal damage, and two frauds and was jailed for three years and eight months by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him:"You are a career burglar. These burglaries, particularly the one at the Blackawton, are serious because of the impact on the community which they serve.

"They are used by the elderly and vulnerable in villages which mean they do not have to travel. This burglary put the viability of that shop in grave danger, with the possibility it may have to close.

"The burglary of the farm shop was professional, taking tools at night to premises which were not fully covered by security devices."

Brian Fitzherbert, prosecuting, said Lennox’s first raid was at Blackawton on February 10 this year where he stole £220 cash, £1,160 worth of tobacco, and three charity boxes.

He said:"An insurance claim was refused. This is a volunteer-run community shop which cannot afford that loss and will have to find another source of income, possibly through a plea to the community, to keep afloat."

The next raid was at Stokeley Farm, where he and another man smashed open a key safe used by drivers making out-of-hours deliveries and unlocked a side door.

The empty safe was found dumped in Torquay and a stolen card was used six times within a few hours, including for two contactless purchases by Lennox.

He caused £1,000 damage or loss of business when he tried to raid a car wash in Torquay on February 23 and when he was arrested police found a shower unit stolen in a burglary at a builder’s merchants on the same night.

Lennox has convictions for domestic and commercial burglaries going back to 2000 in Cornwall, Plymouth, Exeter and Bristol.

Emily Pitts, defending, said Lennox is a self-employed father of three who turned to crime because his business was failing and he had a heroin habit.

She said: "It led to him reverting to his previous behaviour. He is very sorry and recognises the loss and disruption he caused, especially to the community shop."