Hitchin Boots burglars jailed for ‘desperate’ dawn raid

St Albans Crown Court, where the three burglars were jailed. Picture: Danny Loo

St Albans Crown Court, where the three burglars were jailed. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

A trio of burglars who targeted a Hitchin pharmacy were yesterday jailed – with a judge telling the three Romanians they had let their “great country” down.

Boots in Hitchin's High Street. Picture: Google Street View.

Boots in Hitchin's High Street. Picture: Google Street View. - Credit: Archant

Thirty-year-old Florentin Ciobanu, his 31-year-old brother Marius and Bogdan Florea, 29, were sentenced to ten months behind bars when they appeared at St Albans Crown Court.

The trio, of Wokingham in Berkshire, had earlier pleaded guilty to non-dwelling burglary after their dawn raid on Hitchin’s High Street branch of Boots at 5am on Sunday, January 21.

Judge Jonathan Carroll told the men: “You three set out with a clear intention to burgle. I do not accept this was a half-hearted, half-thought-out plan.

“You have gone out and equipped yourselves with a crowbar to force entry, and a large sack to take away the stolen property.

“It was a well-planned and well-executed, semi-professional burglary.

“You come from a great country with a great heritage and many of your fellow countrymen come here with no other indication but an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.

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“Sadly you three do not fall into that category. You have put your own financial concerns above those of the country you are visiting.”

In CCTV footage shown to the court, one of the group was seen peering into Boots 10 minutes prior to the break-in, before leaving and returning with a crowbar.

A grey Volvo was then seen pulling up outside the store, and the man used the crowbar to force open the pharmacy doors.

Three people then rushed in, snatched what they could and left within 30 seconds – dragging a sack full of goods with them.

Police were alerted shortly afterwards, and half an hour later Florea and the Ciobanu brothers were stopped by officers on the M1 near Milton Keynes – with the cosmetics and crowbar.

Prosecutor Diana Wilson said the costs to Boots totalled £11,045.50 – including £3,000 in unrecovered or damaged cosmetics, and the cost of fixing the door.

The Ciobanu brothers had been in the UK for barely half a week before the crime.

They had travelled from Romania to look for work so they could send money back to their widowed mother – but they only bought enough money for three or four days, and could not find work in that time.

One of the brothers knew Bogdan Florea – a labourer who has lived in the UK for two years with his wife and son – who needed money to pay for his mother’s funeral.

Mitigating for the trio, Louis French said: “What Bogdan did was a desperate way of earning money.”

The men drove from Surrey to Hitchin to commit the burglary, which Mr French said “they had little experience of how to do”.

He continued: “This was not a comprehensive plan. They just got as much as they could in one handful each into this bag.

“I asked them what they were going to do with this, and the answer from all three was they had no solid plan and no fence. They hoped to sell it to other people in their community.

“It was really a chance affair, which does not stand up to scrutiny because they do not have experience.

“Each of them expresses serious regret for having done it and let themselves, all those around them, and the country down.”

None of the three burglars had any previous convictions.

The judge sentenced all three of them to ten months in prison. They will serve five before being released on licence.

For the additional crime of driving without a licence or insurance, Florea had his driving licence endorsed with 12 points.

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