A SERIAL burglar who targeted high value tools at car dealerships in Devon, Somerset and Cornwall has been jailed.

Philip Seaton started his crime spree by breaking into garages in Truro and St Austell and then moved up to Newton Abbot, Exeter, Honiton, and Somerset.

He stole £28,000 worth of tools from Ford Taunton on May 17.

He even stole tools from the Nissan dealership in Marsh Barton, Exeter, where he was employed as a car valeter.

Seaton was on a tagged curfew at the time and arranged for a contact from Stockport to drive to Exeter to pick up the stolen goods so he did not break it.

He stole a total of £163,000 worth of specialist tools, all of which are thought to have been taken North and sold in the Manchester area. None have been recovered.

Philip Seaton, 36, of Pottery Yard, Liverton, near Newton Abbot, admitted eight commercial burglaries and asked for five more to be considered.

He also admitted two thefts and one count of criminal damage and was jailed for three years and six months by Judge Geoffrey Mercer, QC, at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him:"This was a spate of serious offences; numerous offences of burglary between January and June last year. These were serious organised offences of burglary and they had a professional air to them.

"Quite clearly, you had organised a ready route for disposing of the valuable property you stole."

Mr James Taghdissian, prosecuting, said the offences started in January in Truro and Newton Abbot and carried on until Seaton was arrested for stealing £62,000 worth of tools from the JFE Nissan garage in Exeter were he worked as a valeter.

CCTV showed him waiting until everyone else had left on a Saturday lunchtime and moving his car into the showroom so he could manhandle the tools into it.

Phone evidence showed a contact from Stockport had been in touch with him and driven to Exeter to pick up the stolen goods, which were driven back North.

The final theft happened just eight days after Seaton had been given  a community order with a tagged curfew for unrelated offences in Manchester.

Mr Taghdissian said the garage raids extended from Truro to Weston-super-Mare and included burglaries at St Austell, Newton Abbot, Exeter, Honiton, South Petherton, Taunton, and Preston in Lancashire.

Most of the tools, which included expensive diagnostic kits, were sold for a fraction of their true value in second hand shops in and around Stockport.

Miss Bathsheba Cassel, defending, said Seaton was in debt to a violent loan shark who had already assaulted him and who was threatening him and his family.

She said he had not enjoyed any sort of luxury lifestyle because everything he made went to pay off his debts. He now regrets what he did and plans to go straight for the sake of his family.

The full list of raids is

  • Eden Vauxhall, Newton Abbot. £4,500 tools. January 22.
  • Snows Lexus, Truro. VW windows broken and five entertainment systems stolen. January 26.
  • Exeter Jaguar, £4,000 tools, February 18.
  • Eden Vauxhall , Newton Abbot, £6,000 tools, March 16.
  • Skoda, North Petherton, £9,200 tools, £400 damage. April 9.
  • Evans Halshaw, Truro. Tyres and diagnostic kit. April 4.
  • Just Citroen, Preston, £1,500 tools. April 21.
  • Vauxhall Honiton, £8,000 tools, May 5.
  • Skoda North Petherton, £1,450 tools, £500 damage. May 17.
  • Ford Taunton, £28,000 tools. May 17.
  • Vauxhall Weston-super-Mare. £1,200 tools. May 20.
  • Peugeot, Weston-super-Mare, £4,000 tools. May 20.
  • Kia Motors, St Austell, £10,000 tools. May 27.
  • Town and Country Motors, Truro, May 28.
  • JFE Nissan, Exeter, £62,000 tools. June 30.