‘Horrific and cowardly’ Hitchin burglar jailed after forcing his way into Letchworth family home

PUBLISHED: 13:50 28 July 2020 | UPDATED: 14:43 28 July 2020

Ashley Nightingale, of no fixed address, was sentenced at St Albans Crown Court on Friday, July 24. Picture: Herts police

Ashley Nightingale, of no fixed address, was sentenced at St Albans Crown Court on Friday, July 24. Picture: Herts police


An “horrific and cowardly” 30-year-old from Hitchin has been sentenced for his part in a frightening aggravated burglary at a Letchworth family home, which saw a mum and her two young children threatened with a hammer.

Ashley Nightingale, of no fixed address, appeared at St Albans Crown Court on Monday last week and pleaded guilty on the second day of his trial to two counts of robbery from a dwelling.

He was described by Judge Grey as “horrific and cowardly, causing appalling damage to the family involved” on Friday as he sentenced him to 10 years in prison for each count to be served concurrently.

The incident happened on Saturday, October 5 last year. At around 2pm, four men – including Nightingale – forced their way into a house in Dunlin, while a mother was at home with her two young children. While demanding money and items of value, the scared children joined their mother in her bedroom.

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The men then set about ransacking the property in their search for cash and jewellery. During this process one of them stood in front of the mother and the children brandishing a hammer. The mother managed to pick up a shard of broken mirror to protect her family. Apart from an injury to the girl’s foot caused by the broken glass, the family were unharmed during the terrifying incident.

The mother showed the men £170 her nine year old son had saved and then managed to scream for help from a bedroom window, forcing the suspects to flee from the premises. They left with the boy’s money, a box of collectable coins and some jewellery.

All four men were seen to get in to a blue coloured Ford focus estate and flee from the area.

Nightingale, who was picked out during an identification procedure with the car in which the men escaped from the scene was located, was subsequently arrested along with the three other men.

The Letchworth family were highly commended for their actions, during the trial, which enabled officers to swiftly identify Nightingale and the other offenders – and they were awarded a £1,000 reward. The officers who were praised by the judge for their investigation.

Det Sgt Will Ainsworth, from the North Herts Local Crime Unit, said: “This is an excellent result. Ashley Nightingale is a dangerous man, who has shown through this investigation, just what a risk he poses to the general public. It has been a very traumatic time for the family and hopefully this sentence will help them to move on with their lives.”

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