‘Despicable’ burglar who targeted pensioners in Royston, Stevenage and Hitchin has prison sentence reduced on appeal

Thomas Hannifin, 24, has had his sentence reduced to 11 years and six months.

Thomas Hannifin, 24, has had his sentence reduced to 11 years and six months. - Credit: Archant

A burglar who targeted the elderly in a string of ‘despicable’ offences in Royston, Stevenage, Hitchin and elsewhere today had his prison sentence reduced by top judges on appeal.

Thomas Hannifin’s sentence of 15 years and two months – imposed in February for conspiracy to burgle and robbery – was reduced to 11 years and six months at the Court of Appeal in London.

The 24-year-old was part of a gang which mostly targeted victims in their 80s and 90s – carrying out two burglaries in Royston, one each in Stevenage and Hitchin, and many others across the south-east.

Det Insp Luke Whinnett of Operation Manhunt – which looks into distraction burglary, fraud and other crimes against the elderly – said at the time of the original sentencing that Hannifin had ‘deliberately and callously targeted some of the most vulnerable members of society for his own selfish gain’, adding that he was pleased to see a ‘substantial sentence for his despicable behaviour’.

Hannifin, of Clovelly Drive in Nottingham, was arrested in March 2015 following an appeal from Herts police’s Operation Manhunt team on TV’s Crimewatch, which prompted an ‘overwhelming’ response.

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In the majority of cases up to three offenders presented themselves to the householder as engineers there to tend to a burst pipe or water leak, then stole jewellery and cash.

This was the case for both of the incidents in Royston, where a man gained entry by claiming to be from the water board.

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In one case cash and jewellery were taken, while in the other the victim noticed two more people in the property, prompting all three intruders to leave.

In Stevenage, a man approached a home saying he was from the council and needed to turn off the water supply because of an emergency. The victim refused him entry and he eventually left.

The Hitchin incident saw offenders entering an unlocked front door, saying they were looking for a friend’s dog – nothing was taken.

Hannifin’s original sentence – imposed at St Albans Crown Court – was 12 years for 20 distraction burglaries, plus three years and two months for robbery.

Mrs Justice Carr, sitting with Lord Justice Davies and Mrs Justice Patterson DBE, slashed the overall jail term to 11 years and six months.

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