A “BUSY and prolific” commercial burglar has been jailed for masterminding a plot to steal tens of thousands of pounds worth of designer clothing from Carlisle’s House of Fraser store.
Ashley Paul Queen, 32, recruited others during the course of a high value crime spree which spanned almost two years, also saw him venture into South Cumbria and which was interrupted only after he was imprisoned for other offending.
Three intruders first smashed their way into an Ambleside outdoor clothing store during the early hours of May 17, 2018, when garments worth around £12,500 were snatched. These were recovered by police who chased a getaway car on the A66 between Keswick and Penrith which crashed, prompting the occupants to flee.
It emerged that car was linked to 28-year-old Jonathan Brown, who desperately tried to report the vehicle stolen and later admitted burglary. He was found to have been in touch with a contact called “Q” – Queen – before the offence.
Queen then carried two reconnaissance missions at the House of Fraser store in central Carlisle – either side of his lengthy spell in custody – just hours before raids on May 22, 2018, and early December last year.
During the latter recce, Queen was overheard by a security guard boasting: “It’ll be a big operation.”
Hugo Boss clothing valued at almost £17,400 was pinched from House of Fraser during the first crime, with £10,000 worth of CP Company gear taken in the second with major disruption caused to the business.
Queen and another accomplice he recruited, Rhys Anthony Robert Wilkinson, 19, of Coalfell Avenue, Carlisle, were then arrested in the early hours of March 5 this year outside the same shop. Phone traffic between the pair leading up to that incident captured Queen saying he was thinking of quitting because “it wasn’t worth the jail”.
Queen, of Dunmallet Rigg, Carlisle, admitted burgling the Ambleside shop and conspiracy to burgle in his home city, and was also found by detectives to have offered the loot for sale in text and photo messages. “He is an experienced, persistent commercial burglar,” prosecutor Tim Evans said of Queen, who was jailed for 46 months today (FRI) at Carlisle Crown Court.
Wilkinson admitted conspiracy to burgle and also affray following an incident in which he lobbed a brick through a family home window and branded an associate a “grass”. He was sent to a young offenders’ institution for 21 months.
Brown, of Hallin Crescent, Carlisle, had a 20-month sentence suspended for two years by Judge Nicholas Barker, who describes the burglaries as “significant”. Brown must complete a four-month night-time curfew and 160 hours’ unpaid work.
Detective Constable Mike Gilsenan, North Cumbria Crime and Safeguarding Team, said: “Operation Discovery was set up following a number of high-value commercial burglaries in north Cumbria. It saw a dedicated team of detectives undertake a complex and protracted investigation due to the organised nature of each burglary. Ultimately the aim was to bring those responsible to justice.
“Stores such as these that fell victim to these crimes provide employment and contribute to our local economies. These are not victimless crimes.
“We will not tolerate any burglaries of any kind of properties.
“Those who engage in these crimes can expect to face a police investigation and prosecution.
“Both men now have time to reflect on their actions.”