THREE armed robbers locked up for 23 years after bursting into a house while a couple and their teenage son were in bed were caught within an hour of their raid - after a tracking device was activated on a mobile phone.
Police believe Lee Bates, aged 22, 23-year-old Martin Neville and Lee Gedney, 28, all of Rotherham, broke into the wrong house when they targeted a property in East Herringthorpe, in April.
The masked men, who were armed with knives, burst into the bedrooms while the occupants were sleeping - demanding cash from a couple in one room and from their 14-year-old son in the other.
One of the robbers even grabbed hold of the family dog and held it in the air with a knife pressed against it, threatening to kill the pet unless cash was handed over.
Detective Constable Gabbi Gilardoni, of South Yorkshire Police, said the men were caught within an hour of the offence when an Apple iPhone stolen by the trio was tracked to Neville’s home in Main Street, Aughton, after a special App was activated.
All three raiders were caught redhanded in the house with the haul of electrical items stolen during the break-in.
DC Gilardoni said: “It was 6.45am when the three men forced their way into the house by breaking down the front door.
“The first the occupants knew of this was when they heard banging downstairs - then the men were in their bedrooms brandishing knives.
“They were demanding money and one of them picked up the family dog and threatened to kill it unless money was handed over.
“One of them then pulled the adult male out of his bed and punched him.
“They always denied this until they attended court and pleaded guilty and they never offered us any explanation as to why they targeted this house.
“We believe it was a case of mistaken identity - that they got the wrong house. But nevertheless once they were in they continued and that’s why they made off with phones and computers.”
He said the raid had left the victims ‘traumatised’.
DC Gilardoni said: “They were woken in their bedrooms in the early hours to find masked men armed with knives.
“The teenage boy, who was 14, was very upset and shaken up.”
He hailed the mobile phone technology which led to the swift capture of the offenders.
“One of the iPhones they stole had a tracker on it, where you can pinpoint where it is if you lose it or it is stolen,” he said.
“It led us to the Aughton area, close to Neville’s address, and using intelligence we have on the local area we visited Neville’s home and found all three of them there with the stolen property.”
Neville was jailed for nine years, Bates, of Hill Top Lane, Kimberworth, got an eight-year sentence and Gedney, of Herringthorpe Valley Lane, East Dene, was locked up for six years, after they all admitted the aggravated burglary.
DC Gilardoni said: “The prison sentences imposed reflect the violent nature of this crime and the public can be reassured violent crime will not be tolerated.”