A GANG of teenage burglars have been branded “callous” after they stole a magistrate’s ashes.

A 17 year-old from Burnley, Joel Ludlam, 18, of Westgate, Burnley, and another 17-year-old, from Clayton-le-Moors, owned up to a string of crimes all committed on the same day.

The two 17-year-olds pleaded guilty to stealing the ashes of the late Robert Gibson in a raid on a house in Lime Road, Accrington, in the early hours on April 21.

Mr Gibson had served as a justice of the peace in Blackburn and Accrington and died from a heart attack at work last December.

All three defendants admitted burglary at a property on Pilot Street, Accrington, and theft of a Suzuki jeep from the property, burglary at a house on Dorset Street, Burnley, where a laptop, wallet and its contents were stolen and burglary at Russell Terrace, Padiham, where a Rolex watch was stolen and the theft of a Citroen Saxo.

The two 17-year-olds also admitted aggravated burglary at a house on Queen’s Road West, Accrington, on April 23, when two laptops, cameras and £1,270 in cash were taken.

They were armed with a wooden bat at the time, Burnley Crown Court heard.

They were remanded in custody until August 1 for pre-sentence reports, but Judge Robert Altham warned them they face immediate custody.

Widow Kathryn Gibson, 52, described her “horror” at discovering the ashes of her husband of 32 years had been stolen from her home to the Lancashire Telegraph earlier this year. The mother-of-two said: “As soon as I realised the ashes had gone I just broke down. I was horrified.” Police found the ashes abandoned on waste land near to Horne Street, Accrington, several hours later and returned them to Mrs Gibson.

The victim said: “I never dreamed I would get them back. It means such a lot.”

Sgt Eugene Swift, from Eastern division CID, said: “It’s obviously a callous act and has caused massive amounts of emotional upset to the victim.”

“It was stupid and pointless, clearly there was no gain to be had from stealing ashes. They were completely thoughtless as to the effects this crime would have.