Three burglars who travelled 100 miles to target elderly residents in Kilgetty and Whitland have been jailed for a total of 11 and a half years.

Tony Smith, aged 20, of Chestnut Close, Rassau, Ebbw Vale, Alf Probert, 23, of Briar Close, Rassau, and John Hearne, 19, of The White House, Buckley, Flintshire, admitted three burglaries.

Huw Rees, prosecuting, told Swansea crown court how Probert, whose father lived at Kingsmoor Common, Kilgetty, provided the gang with details of elderly and vulnerable people and then drove Smith and Hearne to the addresses.

They struck first at Ryelands Way, Kilgetty, the home of a 76 year-old man. He arrived home to find the property had been ransacked. The intruders had got away with £1,500 in cash, five watches and his mother’s engagement ring—and had even opened his will.

Very shortly afterwards the trio targeted a property on Velfrey Road, Whitland, where a 69 year-old man was watching television.

The man, who is blind in one eye, was held down while one of the other defendants made an “untidy” search of the upstairs before leaving with £175 in cash.

However, said Mr Rees, a neighbour who “did not like the look” of the men noted the registration number of the Peugeot driven by Probert as he arrived to collect them.

Within minutes they were back in Kilgetty and in a garden on Millfield Close. The occupier, an 82 year-old woman, confronted them and they made up a story of trying to find their dog.

As she returned indoors the two men followed and locked it behind her. One grabbed her by her wrist and pushed her into the sitting room “with some force.”

They demanded money and ripped out two telephones.

The ordeal lasted 35 minutes as one of the burglars stood guard over the woman, and a friend, who had been visiting, while the other searched the house. They escaped with £200 in cash and some minor items.

Mr Rees said it was significant that both Probert junior and senior had at times carried out gardening jobs at the house.

By then police were armed with the registration number of the Peugeot and Smith was arrested as he approached the car. Probert was also arrested soon afterwards.

Barristers representing the men said they were deeply ashamed at what they had done.

Judge Paul Thomas said the burglaries were “exceptionally serious.”

The men, he said, had been on a “burglary expedition” and had targeted people who were vulnerable because of their ages or ill health.

“You turned their lives upside down and not just their homes. You roughly manhandled two of them and they had no way of telling just how far you would go,” he added.

He said Probert, who had a previous conviction for swindling an elderly person, had “set up” the operation.

Probert and Hearne were jailed for four years and Smith for three and a half.

They were each ordered to pay a £120 surcharge.