600 stolen items: 'Family treasures disappeared forever'

Benjamin Burgess
Benjamin Burgess
When police raided Benjamin Zachery Burgess's home in June last year they found more than 600 stolen items - and that was only part of his ill-gotten haul.

The 29-year-old had spent the preceding three months targeting upmarket homes in some of Dunedin's most affluent suburbs and may have got away with more than $300,000 of goods, a court heard.

The exact figure was almost impossible to calculate, Judge Kevin Phillips told the Dunedin District Court yesterday, and did not take into account the scores of items with sentimental value that would never be returned.

''Your overall acts here have had a high impact on people you don't know, people that you'll never know. They will remember you for the rest of their lives,'' he said.

''You were indiscriminate in what you took ... Heirlooms and family treasures disappeared forever.''

Burgess pleaded guilty to eight burglaries, a reduction from the 14 charges he originally faced.

The spree began on March 8, 2018 when the defendant - allegedly with another man, who has pleaded not guilty - went to a Woodhaugh property.

Like many of the victims, the occupants were out of town when Burgess got in through a laundry window.

Each burglary was similar in style.

Burgess and his co-defendant would draw the curtains of the property to conceal their presence; and the pair worked their way through every area of the house in search of valuables.

''The searches of the houses were conducted in an untidy manner where items from drawers and cupboards were strewn around,'' court documents said.

In the break-in at a Belleknowes house in April, there was wanton destruction alongside the theft of $15,000 of camera equipment, clothing, electronics and tools.

Burgess and his mate doused the floor of the home in soy sauce and powdered it with flour before smashing a television, the court heard.

The duo were not picky about what they stole.

A police summary of facts revealed a staggering range of items swiped by the men.

Among the usual jewellery and electronics, there was also: a telescope, a $50,000 Audi, three children's motorcycles, whiteware, a traditional Russian instrument, a mandolin and an entire sound system.

In statements before the court, several victims wrote about how the city they considered safe had since taken on a different complexion.

One burglary was discovered by the resident's daughter, who was checking on the property while he was away,

She was left ''petrified'' by the thought the criminals might still be inside the house.

Most victims had been also left to carry the bulk of the financial cost. One couple got an insurance payout of just $5000 in the face of a claim that $74,000 of property - including a swag of jewellery - had been taken.

Judge Phillips agreed with Crown prosecutor Craig Power that there seemed to be significant planning involved in where the burglars struck.

''It seems that you knew that people were away for periods of days or weeks somehow,'' he said.

Burgess, who was also convicted on domestic violence charges, was jailed for four years seven months.

Any reparation ordered would only bring the victims ''false hope'', the judge said.


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