A PROLIFIC thief who stole ornamental mushrooms from a back garden and three gold chains from his mother has been jailed.

Darren Paul Douglas, 39, of no fixed abode, who has 28 previous convictions for 75 offences including for dishonesty and theft, also stole a purse off his disabled aunt in what the judge said was a “despicable breach of trust”.

The spate of thefts began in the early hours of the morning on August 6 when Douglas and another man, Matthew Williams, drove to a house in Penycae in a red Ford Fiesta.

At around 1.15am, the home owner heard a car coming up her gravel driveway, but because she thought it was her daughter coming home, went back to sleep.

However, shortly after 6am, a neighbour called her to say they had seen two males getting out of the red vehicle and taking four ornamental stone mushrooms from her back garden.

The three feet high stone fungi were family heirlooms and had significant sentimental value and said to be worth between £500-£700 each. A shallow stone trough had also been taken with a value of £300-£400.

Prosecution barrister, Paulinus Barnes, told Mold Crown Court how the two men were very clearly identified on CCTV and when police officers went to the home of Douglas, he was found lying on the floor, complaining of a bad back and officers noted the strong smell of “Deep Heat” in the air.

During a police interview, Douglas declined to answer whether or not he had hurt his back while moving the stone ornaments. Williams was later sentenced to a 16 week prison term for his part in the theft.

The second offence related to a theft of jewellery belonging to Douglas’ own mother, whose home he had been staying at for a period of some four to five weeks.

He arrived at the home that evening and asked his mother if he could use the toilet, but after about ten minutes, she went upstairs to check on him, as she was worried he was using drugs, as he had done previously.

Douglas was seen coming out of her bedroom, with a gold chain hanging from his pocket and when asked what he was doing, he replied “nothing” before leaving.

Upon checking her jewellery box, she found she was missing three gold chains, which had been inherited by her late mother, a pair of gold hoop earrings and two silver watches belonging to her husband.

Mr Barnes then went on to explain how the third theft was from a home on Colliery Road belonging to the defendants aunt, who uses a wheelchair.

Douglas had gone to the house at around 11.15am on September 15 and asked his aunt if he could use the toilet, but her husband became suspicious that he rifled through her belongings in the bathroom.

When she asked him to come out, he did, and walked straight passed her, holding her purse in his right hand.

The purse contained £180 in cash, a Post Office card, and a photo of her parents, which Mr Barnes said was of great sentimental value.

Defending barrister Andrew Green said his client had clearly breached the terms of two suspended sentences - one for 26 weeks and another for 14 weeks - and said how stealing from family was “as low as one can go”.

Mr Green added that Douglas’ experience of the justice system over the last two decades clearly demonstrated the destructive nature of drug abuse.

He said: “That he is completely ashamed of the offences committed and his early pleas are his best mitigation.

“Never before has he stolen from his family and hopefully he will be able to stop using the drugs and the misery it causes him and other people.”

Jailing him for 18 months (six months for each theft) as well as activating the 40 weeks of suspended sentences, His Honour Judge Niclas Parry said the crimes consisted of a mix of pre-meditated and planned thefts.

He said: “You have committed a despicable breach of trust.

“Some people might smile at the idea of stealing stone mushrooms being stolen but they were planned and you knew they were valuable.

“You deceived members of your own family by asking them to use the toilet. These people loved you and tried to help you but instead you stole from them.”