Man jailed for snooker cue burglary of neighbour

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A west Belfast man was yesterday jailed for 18 months after he admitted breaking into a neighbour’s house and assaulting the householder with a snooker cue.

John Joe Bassett, 27, of Balkan Street off the Falls Road, pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm, aggravated burglary, criminal damage and theft.

Prosecution lawyer Nicola Auret told Craigavon Crown Court that the victim was in the bathroom of his Alina Gardens home in Dunmurry when he heard the door to his house being forced open around 8.40 am on April 21, 2013.

“He heard footsteps coming up the stairs. At this point he tried to come out of the bathroom but one of the two males, but not this defendant, shouted: ‘INLA. Stay where you are’,’’ Ms Auret told Judge Patrick Lynch QC.

Bassett was told by his accomplice: ‘Go and get it’. Ms Auret said Bassett then went into the victim’s bedroom where he kept tins of money under the mattress and took £1,500 in cash.

The court heard that the victim thought he recognised the man who went into his bedroom by his eyes which were not covered by the scarf. He said to Bassett: ‘You are John Joe.’

Ms Auret said the victim pushed Bassett’s accomplice “who fell down the stairs and ended up in a heap’’.

The victim pulled down the scarf of the second male coming out of his bedrom and recognised him as Bassett, who he had known for 18 years and lived only a few doors away, the court was told.

The householder was struck on the head with the snooker cue and needed seven staples.

Both males fled the house and the victim went to Bassett’s home where he spoke to the defendant’s stepfather, but the accused was not at home.

Police were called and almost an hour and a half later officers located Bassett at his stepfather’s address and he was arrested and taken into custody.

During interviews, the court heard, Bassett denied being in his neighbour’s home earlier that day and claimed he was at a house party in north Belfast and had only returned when police called.

However, his mobile phone was seized and a scientific analysis of 28 calls and texts messages revealed that they had emanated from cell sites in west Belfast.

Ms Auret said Bassett was out on prison licence at the time of these offences and said he had previous convictions for robbery, criminal damage, grievous bodily harm and theft.

Defence barrister Tom McCreanor said Bassett had been drinking earlier that morning and had “foolishly’’ allowed himself to get involved in “this hare-brained scheme’’.

Bassett was sentenced to four years with Judge Lynch QC stipulating that he would spend 18 months in custody and a further 30 months on supervised licence on his release from prison.