Leeds launderette firm ruined by burglars

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A launderette owner is facing financial ruin after a gang of burglars targeted her property.

A court heard pensioner Janet Smith has had her life “left in shreds” as a result of a burglary spree carried out by Robert Gibson and three other men at businesses on St Michael’s Lane, Headingley.

The gang forced their way into the launderette owned by 65-year-old Mrs Smith on the night of July 23 last year.

They ransacked the premises, stealing cash from machines and keys to washers.

The gang also stole clothing from the business but career criminal Gibson was caught after his blood was found at the scene.

The four men then tried to smash their way into a beauticians next door, causing £200 of damage.

Attempts were also made to break into a cafe along the same parade of premises before they managed to break into a hairdressers. Mrs Smith had to spend around £1,000 to replace damage and to buy new cash boxes.

She was then told by her insurer that they would not pay out for the damage. Mrs Smith decided to not to renew her insurance policy with the firm, only for the launderette to be burnt to the ground in an incident on Christmas Eve,

Leeds Crown Court heard Mrs Smith has now been left with nothing despite working hard all her life.

Christopher Dunn, prosecuting, told the court the pensioner hoped a judge would “throw away the key” after jailing Gibson.

Gibson pleaded guilty to two offences of burglary and two of attempted burglary. The court heard he has 38 previous convictions, 15 of them for burglary, dating back to 2000.

Michael Miller, mitigating, said Gibson pleaded guilty at an early opportunity and accepted that he would be facing a lengthy prison sentence. He was jailed for 32 months.

Recorder Jonathan Sandiford said: “Janet Smith’s life has been devastated by the impact of this particular offending.

“You and the other members of the gang chose to attack these small stores. I have no hesitation coming to the view that you are an habitual criminal who preys on your fellow citizens.”