TWO teenagers have been sent to a young offenders’ institute after carrying out a spate of break-ins across Hampshire.

The 15-year-olds targeted homes in affluent areas of Ashurst, Romsey and Totton and stole a raft of items, including jewellery of enormous sentimental value.

Their victims included an 88-year-old widow who returned home to discover that her wedding ring had been stolen.

The teenagers, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared at Southampton Crown Court and between them pleaded guilty to nine offences, including theft, fraud and burglary. They also asked for 31 other offences to be taken into consideration, including 11 break-ins.

The court heard that the defendants, both from Totton, carried out a series of well-planned crimes between January and May of this year.

Anthony Bailey, prosecuting, said one of the burglaries occurred at a house in Romsey. The thieves took jewellery worth thousands of pounds, including the victim’s wedding ring and a ring which had belonged to her late mother.

On April 10 cash and jewellery worth £5,000 was taken from a house at Hammonds Way, Totton.

Two days later the defendants targeted another house in Totton, stealing cash, jewellery and a Halifax bank card which was later used at the Southampton branch of Asda.

The victim, 71-year-old Carol Webb, was not at home at the time.

But in a victim impact statement read out by Mr Bailey she said: “I no longer feel safe in my own home. Every noise makes me feel frightened and anxious. I have found myself in tears, thinking about what has happened. My confidence has been completely shattered.”

On another occasion the teenagers targeted a house in New Road, Ashurst, and snatched jewellery belonging to a 79-year-old woman.

A £750 bicycle stolen from Ashurst railway station was later found at the home of one of the defendants, the court heard.

On April 23 the burglars stole coins, jewellery and tools worth £1,280from a house in Jacobs Gutter Lane, Totton.

Jamie Gammon, mitigating for one of the defendants, said: “There is every possibility that he could be turned around. He is someone who needs guidance.”

Keely Harvey, mitigating for the other teenager, added: “He needs help. The help is out there, he just needs access to it.”

But Judge Peter Henry told the defendants: “Several of the burglaries were committed at the addresses of elderly people. The wedding ring belonging to the 88-year-old widow was something she no doubt treasured, having been given it by her deceased husband.”

The handed the defendants two-year detention orders but will be released after 12 months to complete the training element of the order.