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A 90-year-old war veteran targeted by ''gutless'' teenage burglars says at their age he was fighting for his country.
The three Mosgiel youths, one aged 18 and two 17, were sentenced in the Dunedin District Court after subjecting the town to what the judge described as wanton acts of vandalism and theft.
They were convicted of burglaries, vandalism and other offences, including breaking into the man's home.
The man, who did not wish to be named, yesterday told the Otago Daily Times he was asleep in his bedroom on March 27 and awoke about 3am to the sound of voices.
''I called out, 'Who is that?''' the man said.
He recalled seeing two teenagers, including one trying to remove a cardigan and sports coat from a coathanger near the foot of his bed.
''He dropped that smartly.''
The intruders fled with cash and cigarettes.
The man said he was not scared but ''it was pretty cold and I probably had half my head under the blanket''.''
I don't think I would have had much of a show if two of them decided to attack me ... It all happened so quickly.''
After they left, he locked the door, made a cup of tea and went back to bed.
Asked what he was doing at their age, he said he was called up for military service at 18, later serving as a Lancaster navigator with Bomber Command in England.
He returned to New Zealand at 21.
The man conceded he made a mistake by leaving the back door unlocked.
''My daughter told me off and I don't think the police were very thrilled.''
He did not contact police immediately as he did not think anyone would be at the station, but called later that morning after telling a neighbour.
Jesse Ryan Milligan (18), Jamie Robert Burns (17) and Jeffery Alexander Harrison (17) appeared in court for sentencing before Judge Stephen Coyle on Wednesday.
''It was pretty tragic and gutless to target a 90-year-old man,'' the judge told them.
''Shame on you, on all of you.''
The police summary said the three burgled the man's home, as Harrison knew he lived alone and had alcohol and cash.
They entered through the back door and wandered around as he slept.
They stole $20 and cigarettes before going into a room and turning on the light, waking the victim. He confronted them and they ran off.
On March 24, the three went to Eat 'n Run Takeaways where Harrison shattered the glass front door, but iron bars blocked their entry.
Burns then smashed the front window. He and Harrison went inside and took food, drink and the cash till containing $90. The three divided the goods at the railway yards.
On March 29, the three broke into a garage in Kinmont Cres and stole beer, frozen food and other drinks to a value of $491.
About 2am on March 17, Milligan poured petrol over a Toyota car and set it alight. The vehicle was destroyed and reparation of $11,000 was sought.
All three had admitted burgling the 90-year-old's house, the Kinmont Cres garage and Eat 'n Run Takeaways, between March 24 and 29.
Milligan and Burns had admitted eight further burglaries at other properties between September 20 last year and April 5 this year.
Burns and Harrison had also admitted intentionally damaging nine vehicles in March.
Milligan had further admitted a Souter St burglary on April 6, and a vehicle arson on March 17.
And he was resentenced on two charges - stealing $95 and carrying a knife without reasonable excuse - for which he had been given a deferred sentence. Burns had also admitted assaulting a policewoman on June 1.
The three defendants were each sentenced to 10 months' home detention, and 100 hours' community work.
Each is to pay reparation - Milligan $13,818; Burns $7036; and Harrison $5080.
Representing Milligan, counsel Sarah Saunderson-Warner said he was co-operative with police and went on a three-hour drive with them pointing out 10 addresses that were burgled.
Milligan was 17 at the time of the offending. Counsel Steve Turner, for Burns, said his client recognised the offending must have been terrifying for the victims.
''He apologises for what he has done and wants to make up to them by staying out of trouble in the future.''
Public defender Jo Turner said Harrison had a youth history that was an aggravating factor. He wished to express remorse for being back in court.
Yesterday, Clutha-Taieri area response manager Senior Sergeant Alastair Dickie urged residents to report suspicious behaviour immediately to 111.
''Then the dog team could have had a good chance of tracking the offenders.
''It is important we do that straight away.''
Snr Sgt Dickie urged residents to always lock their homes at night.
This incident ''could have been a far more serious situation''.