Night after night this man went out on a crime spree before he was found hiding in a cupboard

Police custody photograph of Daniel Franks
-Credit: (Image: South Wales Police)

A man went out night after night looking for things to steal from parked cars, a court has heard. Over the space of a fortnight Daniel Franks stole a haul of items from cash, wallets and bank cards to packets of crisps, power tools, and even an urn of ashes.

The defendant has 35 previous thefts on his record - the vast majority of which involve stealing from vehicles - and at the time of his most recent spree was out of prison on licence after being jailed for burglary and thefts from cars. He was identified as the person responsible for the new offending thanks to the police's facial recognition technology.

Swansea Crown Court heard the most recent offences all happened late at night or in the early hours of the morning over a two week period in April and May this year in the Caewern, Waunceirch, Bryncoch and Neath Abbey areas of Neath. Regan Walters, prosecuting, said in most of the incidents the victims knew nothing about the thefts until they went to drive their vehicles the next day and found gloveboxes, centre consoles and door pockets had been searched and items removed. However, for a few of the victims the first indication they received that something was wrong was when notifications appeared on their phones telling them the bank cards they thought they had left secure in their cars had just been used in shops.

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The court heard the items taken during the night-time raids included banks cards, passports, a driving licence, a laptop computer, Apple AirPod earphones, a box of 12 packets of crisps and a case of soft drinks, expensive power tools, and small amounts of cash. From one vehicle Franks stole £1,850 in cash - the takings from the victim's shop - and from another a container holding the ashes of the victim's brother-in-law, ashes which were going to be placed into necklaces for family members.

The court heard police officers began to investigate the spate of thefts and during their inquiries collected CCTV and video doorbell footage from the relevant streets - the footage was analysed and South Wales Police's facial recognition technology identified the thief as 33-year-old Franks. The defendant was subsequently tracked down to an address where he was found hiding in a cupboard. For the latest court reports, sign up to our crime newsletter here.

Daniel Franks, of Baptist Well Street, Waun Wen, Swansea, pleaded guilty to 11 counts of theft when he appeared in the dock for sentencing. The court heard he has 26 previous convictions for 50 offences including 35 thefts, the "vast majority" of which are vehicle related. In May last year he was jailed for 876 days for offences of burglary, thefts from vehicles, and fraud - using stolen bank cards - and was out of prison on licence when he committed the Neath spree. Following his arrest he was recalled back to prison to serve the remainder of that earlier sentence.

Ruth Smith, for Franks, said the defendant grew up in "sad circumstances" with a drug-addicted and alcoholic mother and a father with whom he had "difficult relationship". She said her client had been battling an addiction to Class A drugs for a considerable period of time, and said after being released from his last custodial sentence he had been placed in a probation hostel amongst drug users and he had "relapsed". The barrister said Franks had committed the offences before the court in order to fund his habit.

Judge Catherine Richards said Franks had stolen from a series of vehicles during a period of "persistent and determined" offending. With a one-third discount for his guilty pleas, the defendant was sentenced to 10 months in prison. Defendants ordinarily serve up to half their sentences in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community but the date of Franks' release will be determined by the length of the sentence he spends on recall.

Speaking after the sentencing, South Wales Police inspector Inspector Ryan Davies said: "Daniel Franks repeatedly targeted unattended vehicles in the Neath area and caused great distress for the vehicles’ owners and their wider community. We thank the community for their support and patience, and for their sharing of intelligence, in what has been a challenging case involving a prolific offender."

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