Dad's solution to feeding £200-a-day cocaine habit saw him jailed for 10 years

Patrick Symes, 31, of no fixed address, but from Kirkby, admitted conspiracy to burgle. He was jailed for 10 years.
Patrick Symes -Credit:Liverpool Echo

A burglar received a 10-year sentence after stealing medals from an army veteran.

Patrick Symes embarked upon an astonishing series of raids on 41 homes in the space of just over four months in order to feed his £200 a day cocaine habit. Once allowed out of jail on day release, he failed to return to prison after ending up in hospital when he squatted for too long.

The ECHO previously reported that Symes stole thousands of pounds of jewellery and sentimental items after breaking into addresses on Graburn Road and Old Mill Lane in Formby in February 2019. These included an almost 50-year-old engagement ring and irreplaceable items which had been passed down by family members.

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The then 30-year-old admitted five counts of burglary. He was jailed for 15 months.

But Symes would be back before Liverpool Crown Court only a year later having targeted a further 41 properties across Merseyside and West Lancashire in a "despicable" crime spree between October 2018 and February 2019. This again saw him pinch treasured belongings including a wedding ring belonging to the victim's late husband.

The ECHO reported in 2020 that the by now the 31-year-old even stole medals an army veteran in Litherland had earned during tours of duty in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan while serving 24 years with the 3rd Battalion Rifles. Anthony O'Donohoe, prosecuting, outlined how he would gain entry to premises by smashing rear patio and kitchen windows and doors using garden tools such as spades and shears.

Symes also struck at houses in West Derby, Childwall, Crosby, Waterloo, Bootle, Formby, Southport, Burscough, Ormskirk and Maghull. In total, he stole thousands of pounds worth of gold, platinum and silver wedding and engagement rings, diamond set pieces, designer watches and heirlooms.

One woman decided to leave her home of 36 years after her home was invaded, while a pensioner had her house ransacked while she was in hospital awaiting heart surgery. A mum also returned home from celebrating her daughter's eighth birthday to find that Symes had taken items including her parents' wedding rings, leading to the youngster not wanting to go out to celebrate turning nine as she feared a repeat burglary.

The dad was ultimately linked to the break-ins through CCTV footage, glove marks, footprints and his clothing. He was arrested when a Volkswagen Touareg was stopped by police, who discovered jewellery taken during one of the burglaries in the front passenger footwell.

While Symes initially claimed that he had found the stolen goods in a plastic bag retrieved from a bush, the former forklift truck driver - who was said to have used "up to £200 of illegal drugs a day" - later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary. His family members gasped in the public gallery as he was handed a 10-year stretch, although this was later reduced to nine years on appeal.

The same court heard on Tuesday this week that the now 35-year-old had been serving this sentence at HMP Thorn Cross in Warrington. Symes, of Henlow Avenue in Kirkby, was allowed leave from the category D open prison on April 2 this year in order to attend work, but did not return to the jail that evening.

Paul Blasbery, prosecuting, described how he was subsequently circulated as being wanted. Then, on April 5, his sister contacted the police and stated that her brother had visited her home and was intending to hand himself in "but had injured his legs as a result of squatting for a couple of hours while hiding from police officers who were looking for him".

Symes was taken to hospital as a result, having apparently developed an infection, where he was visited by PCs on the afternoon of April 6 and arrested. He has a total of 19 previous convictions for 20 offences.

Paul Lewis, defending, told the court: "He made a mistake when he was out at work. There was a small disagreement with somebody.

"By the time he got what he describes as some headspace, his curfew had passed. He regretted it."

Symes admitted being a temporarily released prisoner unlawfully at large. Appearing via video link to HMP Altcourse wearing a grey Montirex t-shirt, he was handed an additional two months behind bars.

Sentencing, Judge Anil Murray said: "You were serving a long sentence. You had a disagreement with someone, so you did not return.

"You were having difficulties in life. You got your sister to ring the police and told them where you were.

"You know this has to be an immediate and consecutive sentence. There has to be a deterrent in this kind of case so that it does not happen in the future."

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