DNA on cigarette butt snares rogue builder after St Albans scam

TWO cigarettes which were thrown down outside an elderly couple’s St Albans home landed rogue builder Stuart Lane in court and staring at a prison sentence.

For the stubbed-out butts on the ground outside the house contained his DNA and led to his capture after he had ripped off the couple with a roof repair scam.

Lane, 40, was part of a gang that in September 2007 targeted the elderly couple in Watford Road.

On the morning of September 20 they called at the property and after a knock at the door informed the couple they had spotted a missing tile on the roof and for �20 could put things right.

Isabel Delamere prosecuting at St Albans crown court on Friday said the couple agreed but a short while later were informed the job was bigger than expected and the revised cost for the work was �3,000. Eventually it came down to �2,000.

Miss Delamere said the elderly husband only had �1,000 he could hand over so Lane took the man in a pick-up truck to a bank so that a further �1,000 could be withdrawn.

Judge Martin Griffith heard how having got the money Lane handed it over to another man in a car before taking the householder back to his home.

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The prosecutor said it was when a neighbour of the couple challenged the gang about what they were doing that they decided a hasty exit was in order.

Ladders were collapsed and loaded onto a vehicle in double quick time before they sped off from the street.

But it was Lane’s craving for a fag that day that was to lead to his eventual capture. Miss Delamere explained that two cigarette ends were found outside the couple’s home. Police suspected one of the gang had left them behind and so they were sent off for scientific analysis.

Tests revealed they contained the DNA trace of Stuart Lane, a man who had notched up previous convictions for offences including burglary, assault, and driving and drugs matters.

Herts Police were able to track him down and he was arrested.

Lane of New Town, Southampton, pleaded guilty to one offence of fraud by false representation. Andrew Mooney, defending, said Lane had been recruited that day and had expected to be paid �100 for a day’s work. In the event he received nothing.

Judge Griffith said too many elderly and vulnerable people were being targeted by rogue builders like Lane claiming there were problems with their roofs.

But he said it was now an old matter and he sentenced Lane to eight weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months.

Lane was also told he must carry out 80 hours of unpaid work as part of a 12 month supervision order.