'You can't catch me' raider is jailed
A PROLIFIC burglar who targeted hundreds of homes in Torbay and boasted to police 'you will never catch me' is behind bars.
Career thief Edward Mclear, 33, taunted officers before carrying out his latest crime in Paignton.
His activities over a number of years have been so extensive that when Torbay suffered a spike in burglaries last year he was put under surveillance by a special police squad code named Operation Bond.
His boasting finally came to an end when he was captured coming out of a house with a child's iPod. Thousands of pounds worth of jewellery and stolen property had previously been recovered in raids at addresses in the Bay.
When told about how his crimes affected his victims the unrepentant thief responded, 'get the violins out'.
Conviction for the single burglary was enough to send Mclear back to prison for three years under the third strike rule which takes into consideration his previous crimes.
The last time he was jailed the defendant asked for more than 100 burglaries to be taken into consideration.
Mclear was sentenced by a judge at Exeter Crown Court who said he would have been jailed for four and a half years but the court had to give him credit for his early guilty plea.
The burglar, who is originally from Manchester, has convictions for offences in Torbay stretching back a decade.
The value of his thefts and burglaries over that time is estimated to be more than £100,000.
When Torbay endured a 'huge spike' in house burglaries last year police believed Mclear was behind them.
The Pro-Active Unit from South Devon CID set up Operation Bond with Mclear as the target.
It was at this stage while police were monitoring his movements and stopping him in the street that Mclear would make his misguided boasts about never being caught.
The operation came to a climax in the early hours of July 13. Mclear had been followed all night by undercover officers in Paignton and was seen sneaking into the rear of a property in Belfield Road.
As the arrest team were called in to strike they found their target coming from the back of the house.
He was searched and an iPod belonging to a four-year-old girl who was asleep upstairs was found.
Warrants had previously been executed under the Theft Act and officers recovered thousands of pounds worth of stolen property.
Many items, including jewellery, have featured in our Swag Bag column with people coming forward to identify the property.
He was sentenced after admitting a single charge with two more taken into consideration.
One of his victims, a 52-year-old woman from the Happaway Road area of Torquay said she had her laptop stolen from her home by Mclear.
"It affected me for quite a long time afterwards. I live on my own and it is quite scary to know somebody had been in my home.
"He broke into my house on the Friday but by the following Wednesday police had found the laptop after a raid at a house.
"To be honest considering what he has done to people I would have liked to see him go to down for longer but at least he is off the streets."
DI Nick Wilden from Torbay CID said Mclear has been a significant problem in Torbay.
He added: "For every day a seemingly unrepentant career criminal like him is at large is a day when the overwhelming majority of law abiding decent people are at a risk of being prey to his activities.
"He is now where he belongs. This is also a clear message to other criminals in the area. Commit these offences and you will be targeted with all the resources we can muster.
"Mclear's challenge to officers in Torbay has resulted in him being imprisoned for a lengthy period."
He said Torbay was still a safe place to live.
"South Devon police are totally committed to reducing house burglary as we see it as a very invasive and unpleasant crime.
"It is sad to say insecure premises still account for 40 per cent of burglaries. The message is clear — lock your homes and cars and you are significantly reducing the risk to your property."