HOUSEHOLDERS were hit by joyriders who burgled their properties so they could steal their vehicles which were later found burnt out.

Four homes were broken into and car keys and other items stolen in a series of raids.

While the raiders failed to find the car to match the keys they stole from one of the properties, three other cars were driven off and burnt, causing thousands of pounds of damage.

Adrian Julienne, of Wavertree, Liverpool, was found guilty by a Mold Crown Court jury of three of the burglaries and two of the thefts, but cleared of another break-in and car theft.

Julienne, 20, was sentenced to three years and nine months in a young offenders institution. Co-accused Tyrone Hughes, 21, of Bran, Acrefair, received a four-year sentence after he admitted aggravated vehicle taking in that he allowed himself to be carried in a stolen car.

Hughes also received a 12-month driving ban.

He also faced similar charges to Julienne, but the prosecution offered no evidence and he was cleared on all counts after a key witness failed to turn up.

Barrister James Coutts, prosecuting, said police received reports of burglaries at two houses on Queen Street in Ruabon on July 14 last year.

One householder found car keys had been taken but they were not the right keys for the Peugeot parked outside her home.

A second resident was not so lucky after he left his house keys in the door and discovered his Ford Puma car had gone from the driveway, while a laptop and charger had been stolen from inside the house.

The Ford was recovered later that day but had been set on fire.

Mr Coutts said CCTV footage showed two men, one with a hood concealing his face, trying car doors in the early hours. They were also seen going into a porch and the Ford Puma was spotted being driven away.

The other raids took place on July 19 and in the early hours of July 20. A taxi driver came back from work to find his white Mini Cooper was missing from his driveway at Foxwood Drive, Erddig.

In similar fashion the vehicle’s key was stolen from his house. The car was found later after an attempt had been made to burn it out.

At Parkland Walk in Ruabon a stolen Volkswagen was found a few hours later with significant smoke damage.

Julienne was arrested hiding in a cupboard at his mother’s house in Liverpool.

He claimed that at the time of the burglaries and car thefts he was staying at his sister’s house in Daniels Drive, Ruabon and was prone to go out in the early hours of the morning to buy cannabis.

He said he was on the CCTV footage, but he had stopped the car to talk to his sister and was not with an accomplice.

Defence barrister Henry Hills said: “This is a story of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Last July he and his pregnant partner were sofa surfing with his sister in Ruabon. You might say his conduct was suspicious, but there is no CCTV footage of him entering any of the houses or to show him being involved in the theft of any of the vehicles.

“There is no forensic evidence linking him to the houses and no finger prints or DNA hits.”

But Mr Coutts said CCTV footage clearly showed two men searching for houses to burgle.

He said: “The defendant accepts being one of those two men, he admits that but doesn’t admit that he was one of the two men trying car doors and getting into one of the houses.

“It’s so incredible that it is not true.

“He appears on the CCTV when two cars pull up in the area and he says he was there to buy cannabis from someone on that housing estate and then low and behold his sister calls him over (to the car).

“His story is essentially nonsense and he was involved in all these burglaries and thefts.”

Julienne had denied four counts of burglary and three of taking a motor vehicle in the Ruabon and Wrexham area.

The jury cleared him of the burglary and theft of the vehicle at Parkland Walk.

Deputy Judge David Hale issued a warrant for Julienne’s arrest after he failed to show up at court for the second day of his trial.

Hughes was linked to a separate car theft at George Avenue in Trevor on July 24/25 where the methods used were similar in that keys were taken from the property and a Peugeot driven off.

The vehicle was found abandoned the next day at Wynnstay Technology Park and a brick had been thrown through one of its windows. Hughes’ finger print was discovered on a rear mirror.

Judge Hale said: “This wasn’t just having a joy ride, they didn’t just take the keys they also destroyed these cars by setting fire to them.”

And of Julienne’s offending the judge said: “Burglaries of dwellings at night while the householders are at home is a serious aggravating feature in this case.”