A CRIMINAL who was part of a "burgling team" which targeted a commercial site in Kendal has been jailed for five years.

Sean Owen McDonald, 49, had denied being involved as intruders illegally entered the compounds of four Penrith businesses and one at Kendal's Shap Road in December, 2016.

But after a trial at Carlisle Crown Court, McDonald was convicted of six offences. These were three thefts, two charges of going equipped for theft with a hacksaw and pair of wire-cutters, and one attempted theft.

McDonald's crimes occurred on three separate nights in December, 2016, when many thousands of pounds worth of vehicles and other property was stolen. A trail of damage and destruction was left behind.

Wire-cutters were discarded at one site on Mardale Road in Penrith, and a hacksaw found near the point of illegal entry at a Shap Road yard in Kendal. McDonald's DNA was found on both tools.

In addition, some stolen loot - including an Iveco flat-bed truck stolen from a Penrith vehicle recovery garage, and a £17,000 JCB mini-digger snatched from Cox and Allen in Kendal - was recovered by police less than a mile from McDonald's home at Clapham Green in Middlesbrough.

The total value of equipment stolen from Cox and Allen was in the region of £18,000.

Giving evidence, McDonald could offer no explanation for the damning DNA finding.

Jurors heard he had racked up a host of burglary and other dishonesty crimes during the 1990s and 2000s while living in Carlisle, and committed his first break-in aged just 13.

Andrew Nixon, defending, suggested the raids had been committed by "Keystone criminals" given a number of mishaps. Some 125 litres of additive was mistakenly put by criminals - believing it was fuel - into the tank of one vehicle, the engine of which was destroyed, preventing its removal.

But Judge Simon Medland QC responded: "There is nothing Keystone about it. This was serious, sophisticated, professional offending."

Judge Medland added: "It is a feature of this case that the medium-sized local businesses which were targeted were caused very significant financial imposition by the offences, and by the breach of their security."