TWO burglars who targeted the homes of older people have been jailed - after they were snared by DNA evidence from flat caps.

Shane Richards and Carl Riddiough were jailed at York Crown Court after forensic analysis of two flat caps found crucial DNA evidence and shards of glass from a smashed patio door.

It follows a major investigation into distraction burglaries across North Yorkshire.

York Press:

The investigation into their offending was led by the Operation Gauntlet Multi-Agency Safeguarding Team.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Police said officers from Operation Gauntlet launched an investigation into a series of burglaries that took place across North Yorkshire between August 1 and 3, 2016, in which homes owned by older people were targeted and items such as cash and jewellery stolen.

The spokesman added: "Some of the victims reported that two men had knocked on the door and claimed that their ball had been kicked into the back garden. When the homeowners took one of the men to get the ball, the other would search the house and steal property. Other burglaries involved patio doors being smashed."

The suspects were said to be wearing flat caps, and a vigilant witness spotted two men in caps behaving suspiciously in a vehicle.

The spokesman said: "The vehicle was later found by North Yorkshire Police, and investigators were able to link the DNA of two men to two flat caps found inside. Glass experts also analysed the caps, and found samples of glass from one of the burglary scenes in both of them. Mobile phone data and fingerprints also provided evidence for the case."

Two men were arrested in connection with the investigation – Shane Richards, 30, and Carl Riddiough, 30, both from the Doncaster area.

At York Crown Court on Wednesday, Richards pleaded guilty to five distraction burglaries, in Filey, Scagglethorpe, Boroughbridge, Scarborough and Great Ayton. He also pleaded guilty to a burglary in Whitby where a patio window was smashed. He was jailed for four-and-a-half years for the North Yorkshire offences, as well as three years’ concurrent imprisonment for a number of offences committed in the Lincolnshire area.

Riddiough pleaded guilty to the Whitby burglary. He was jailed for four-and-a-half years.

DC Sam Harding, of the Op Gauntlet Multi-Agency Safeguarding Team, said: "This was a complex investigation in which each agency played a key role. Richards’ and Riddiough’s offending left their victims extremely distressed, and it is right that they are both now behind bars.

"Burglars often target the most vulnerable people in our communities, tricking or breaking their way into homes and stealing sentimental or valuable property. These awful crimes can have a huge impact on the victims and their families.

"Residents can, however, be reassured that a number of agencies are working together to tackle this type of crime in North Yorkshire, and bring offenders to justice. We also want to encourage people – particularly if they are elderly or vulnerable – to be vigilant against this type of crime. Do not let anyone into your home if you are not certain who they are. If you’re not sure, don’t open the door."

Operation Gauntlet is made up of North Yorkshire Police, North Yorkshire Trading Standards and Social Services. The Gauntlet team was created to focus on the protection of vulnerable people who have been exploited financially, as well as door-step offenders such as bogus callers and distraction burglars.

Anyone who thinks they might have been a victim of distraction burglary, or who has strangers at their door acting suspiciously, are urged to report it to the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.