A MAN who burgled Christmas presents, bank cards and war medals from North Dorset homes before narrowly escaping a high-speed car crash has been jailed.

Anthony James Higgins began the string of offences at the Spar store in Mampitts Lane, Shaftesbury, on the afternoon of December 15 last year.

The 31-year-old approached the counter and asked a staff member to check a scratch card for some winnings. He then said he was going to walk around the shop and was seen to enter a backroom storage area.

Higgins was challenged by the staff member, who found three bottles of cider in his backpack that had been taken from a storage shelf. He was told to leave the shop and banned.

Staff subsequently realised Higgins had taken the store keys from the door and they contacted police.

That night a burglary was reported a Shaftesbury home. A number of Christmas presents were stolen as well as a laptop, wallet and iPhone.

The burglary was discovered on the morning of December 16 and reported to police.

Later that day the victim found the laptop, wallet and a bag containing torn wrapping paper discarded near to their address. Their bank cards were missing from the wallet and one was subsequently used to withdraw £250 from a local cashpoint.

Another burglary occurred at Shortedge in Sturminster Newton during the early hours of December 17. Again a number of Christmas presents were stolen as well as some war medals, a bank card and other items.

An attempt was made to use the stolen bank card at the Co-op store in Sturminster Newton but this was declined.

The same day Higgins was seen driving a grey Peugeot in Tarrant Keyneston. The vehicle made off but was subsequently stopped by officers. Prior to being stopped it was estimated to be driving at around 80mph in a 60mph limit and narrowly missed an oncoming vehicle at a roundabout.

A number of items stolen from the Sturminster Newton burglary were found in the vehicle.

A search of Higgins’s address led to the discovery of items stolen during the burglary in Shaftesbury.

In addition, a handling stolen goods charge was brought related to items found at Higgins’s address that were linked to a burglary in Salisbury Road in Shaftesbury that had occurred between November 23 and December 3, 2019.

After Higgins, of Beaufoy Close, Shaftesbury, was arrested he was searched in custody and was found to be in possession of a wrap of cannabis.

He was sentenced two years and 146 days in prison by a judge at Bournemouth Crown Court on Tuesday, February 4, after admitting three charges of burglary as well as offences of handling stolen goods, possessing a class B drug, careless driving, driving while disqualified and driving without valid insurance. He was also disqualified from driving for 12 months, starting from when he leaves prison.

Sergeant James Francis, of North Dorset police, said: “Anthony Higgins is a repeat offender who targeted a number of premises in a short period of time in December last year.

“I am pleased that through the work of officers we were able to quickly identify him as the man responsible for these offences and he was arrested before he could commit further burglaries.

“I am also glad that we were able to recover many of the items that were stolen in the burglaries.”