A ‘semi-professional burglar’ linked to a corner shop smash-and-grab by a blood spatter said he’d been hit in the back the head by another member of the gang.

Justin Bourton, 43, told Oxford Crown Court through his barrister that he’d been roped into the break-in at Danes Convenience Store, Drayton, over a three-year-old drug debt. He claimed he hadn’t planned the burglary or even known the other three raiders.

But that explanation found short shrift with the judge sentencing him on Friday.

Recorder John Bate-Williams said: “This was in my judgement a carefully targeted and planned burglary of a commercial premises and one of the gang was armed with a baseball bat.

“A member of the public found a pair of black stockings outside [the shop] with the legs knotted, which were not presumably intended to be used for allure but to create fear.”

Given his record as a ‘semi-professional burglar’ with break-in convictions from 1995 to 2018, the judge said: “I find it quite implausible that you were a reluctant passenger in a car that conveyed you to a small shop in the middle of the night.”

He jailed Bourton for three years.

Danes convenience store, Drayton Picture: GOOGLE

Danes convenience store, Drayton Picture: GOOGLE

Earlier, prosecutor Henry James said the small group were caught on CCTV smashing their way into Danes Convenience Store, Drayton, at around 2am on July 5 last year. Armed with tools and disguises, they made a ‘messy snatch and grab’, stuffing £6,158-worth of cigarettes and tobacco into a building waste bag.

Bourton was identified from blood left behind on a sign inside the shop.

“This was a planned operation, a significant quantity of cigarettes were taken, there was soiling or vandalism in the search to get what they could,” Mr James said.

Defending, Alice Aubrey-Fletcher said her client maintained he was not involved in planning the burglary.

Instead, he said he was roped in at the last moment to pay off a ‘three or four year old’ drug debt. He did not know his fellow larcenists.

His barrister said: “The injury he sustained, which caused him to bleed resulting in the blood being left in the shop, was caused by being struck on the head behind his ear by a tool – he thinks a hammer, although he did not see it – by one of the other men involved in the incident.

“There was no blood found on any of the glass around the entrance of the store, as may be expected had he cut himself on the way in.”

Justin Bourtons file police mugshot Picture: TVP

Justin Bourton's file police mugshot Picture: TVP

Ms Aubrey-Fletcher said her client had long struggled with drugs. Since his last prison sentence he had managed to hold down a job for 16 months with a building firm.

Bourton, of Dashwood Road, Oxford, pleaded guilty to a non-dwelling burglary.

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