TWO career burglars who carried out a month-long Christmas crime spree have been given long jail sentences.

The pair drove to the county and targeted homes they thought would have valuables to steal and the occupants would be out in the daytime, even striking at two homes in Stourport while the householders were out visiting on Christmas Day.

Mark Toogood was jailed for nine years and Matthew Brookes seven and a half years as Judge Robert Juckes, QC told them: “The community is due a rest from your activities.”

Both admitted a single charge of conspiracy to commit burglary covering a total of 19 raids in December, 2012 and January, 2013.

"It is difficult to calculate the sum total of misery you must have caused to the people whose houses you broke into," the judge told them at Worcester Crown Court. "Their homes have been desecrated by evil-minded invaders."

Graeme Simpson, prosecuting, said the spree involved others who were not before the courts. Toogood was the driver and their plan was to get into the houses through a rear window or patio door and away from the area as quickly as possible. They were caught after police used methods including phone tracking and automatic number plate recognition.

On Christmas Day, 2012, the raiders struck in Bigbury Lane, Stourport, making off with jewellery and £1,200 cash and the BMW from the drive, a total haul of £15,000. They also broke into a house in Heightington Place nearby but nothing was stolen.

On January 10, Brookes struck at a detached cottage in Belbroughton, taking jewellery and electrical items and a house in Somerfield Lane, Kidderminster, was raided on January 19.

Brookes also confessed to breaking into a house in Beverley Close, Kidderminster, while the owners were away, taking "everything of value", including jewellery and electrical goods, Mr Simpson said.

The thieves also struck at homes in Shropshire, in one case taking goods valued at over £21,000, including a Cartier watch, and at one property in Clent. Many of the raids involved untidy searches Both men are 28 and currently serving prison sentences for other offences, the court heard. Brookes, originally from West Bromwich, and Toogood, formerly of Stourbridge Road, Dudley, had long records for dishonesty and theft, starting when they were both 14.

Benjamin Nicholls, for Brookes, said he had worked for six months after his last long prison sentence but had been lured back into crime by his drug habit. He now intended to go straight because he wanted to get out of the "revolving door" of being in and out of prison. He also wanted to apologise to the householders.

Lynette McClement, for Toogood, said he had returned to crime when he ran out of money following release from his last prison sentence.