Two men were seen using a wheelbarrow to carry away a fridge stolen from two renovated houses in Burton, a court heard.

Paul Turner was spotted by one witness with the wheelbarrow in Moor Street before his accomplice Darren Johnson was seen leaving one of the properties.

They appeared at Stafford Crown Court for sentence having both already admitted a charge of burglary.

The duo - both recovering heroin addicts - had smashed a window at the back of one of houses before taking the goods.

Johnson, 39, who appeared in court via a video link from Dovegate Prison, was said to have more than 50 previous convictions and was told he was a "third-strike" house burglar and that he faced an automatic three-year sentence.

The court heard Johnson, of no fixed address, was currently serving a total of 77 weeks custody - due to three previous suspended sentences that were all activated by Cannock magistrates in March, plus 14 weeks for the theft of a bicycle.

As a result Recorder Michael Elsom said he had to consider the total period Johnson would serve and imposed a four-month consecutive sentence for the burglary.

Turner, 35, of Grange Street, Burton, who has 22 previous convictions, was made the subject of a 12-month community order including a rehabilitation programme and must also complete 120 hours unpaid work.

Stafford Crown Court file pictures
The two men appeared at Stafford Crown Court

Aimee Parkes, prosecuting, said the burglary happened around 8pm on January 29 in Moor Street at the premises of the former Black Horse public house.

She said owner Charles Burford had converted the building into two terraced homes and at the time some work was still being done and no tenants had moved into the properties.

"A witness saw Turner in the street pushing the wheelbarrow with a cover over what was clearly an item of white goods - the fridge," she said.

Moments later Johnson had appeared from the end of terrace house and the witness suspected the two men were burglars and alerted police.

Miss Parkes said initially Johnson claimed he had found the barrow with the fridge and Turner said he had not entered the building and had just been helping out a mate.

He suggested he could not be "forensically" linked to the thefts but glass fragments from the broken window were found on his black, hooded top.

The court heard both men had a history of heroin addiction over many years and both were now attempting to address their drug issues.

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