‘Thrill seeker’ car thief (16) in high-speed smash

A THRILL-SEEKING teenage car thief who broke into Burnley homes and caused a horror high-speed crash has been sent to detention for 18 months.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 15th December 2011, 7:57 am

Joel Ludlum (16) raided the home of two pensioners, made off in their £6,900 Land-Rover Discovery and then struck again at another family home an hour later.

A mother-of-two, asleep on the settee of her house in Sedburgh Street, was terrified when she awoke to find a hooded intruder standing feet away from her, the town’s crown court heard.

The hearing was told Ludlum then overturned the vehicle in Gannow Lane and climbed out after it landed on its roof next to a house. He was later arrested, lied to the police and only owned up when confronted with scientific evidence.

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Ludlum, described as a gifted footballer, has a record of 36 offences, which include night-time house burglaries, and has been sent to detention in the past.

But his barrister told the court he was not a lost cause and a judge, who had read a letter from the defendant, said he was not going to treat him as one.

The defendant, of Dunoon Street, Burnley, admitted two charges of burglary, one of theft, driving without due care and attention and no insurance. Ludlum, who has been on remand for 116 days, was banned for 18 months.

Mr Ian Metcalfe (prosecuting) said the pensioners awoke just after 4 a.m. to find their bungalow lights on and that the property, including the bedroom in which they had been sleeping, had been searched.

As well as car keys, a laptop, a watch and wallet were among the items stolen.

Ludlum and an alleged accomplice then used the Land-Rover to commit the second raid, around 5-15 a.m.

As soon as the victim stirred, a hooded man ran from the lounge, taking her mobile phone with him.

She was scared and upset as her children were upstairs in bed. Footprints were found on the window sill and kitchen floor and CCTV footage from a nearby camera showed the Land-Rover being driven away.

Mr Metcalfe said around half-an-hour later, the vehicle went out of control, hit a kerb and ended up on its roof.

The phone was found in the wreckage. The defendant tried to hide his clothing in a garden shed. He was arrested the next day, denied being involved in the burglaries or the accident, put forward an alibi and made no comment. His DNA matched blood found on the inside of the Land-Rover roof and footprints were found to be his.

Mr David Bentley (defending) said he was still a very young man and he did not confront the occupier in the second burglary.

The barrister, who said the crash had been a wake-up call for Ludlum, added: “He is attracted to the thrill of driving vehicles which he can’t afford and which he may not be able to afford when he becomes older.”

Sentencing, Judge Robert Altham told Ludlum he perhaps tried to glamorise what he did by saying he got a buzz out of cars.

The judge said the defendant’s actions in trying to get out of the offences were “grubby, cowardly and immature.”

But he added: “At 16, it’s just not possible to write somebody like you off.”