BRAZEN thieves dressed as workmen and carrying Royal Mail sacks raided a jewellery store in broad daylight after it shut for lockdown.

Lee Greensmith and Robert Haigh donned high viz jackets and broke into the Warren James store in Bradshawgate, Leigh.

But a crowd gathered as the shop's alarm went off and a PCSO peeped through the letterbox and could hear banging coming from inside.

Bolton Crown Court heard how the pair were then seen running away from the back of the shop by the officer, but were caught a short time later.

The jewellery they had taken was worth around £1,000 and they had caused a further £1,000 in damage to the store.

David Bentley, prosecuting, told how the shop had been locked up and left secure for several weeks due to the lockdown before the alarm went off on the afternoon of February 2.

"The officer went to the rear of the jewellers and witnessed the two defendants running out of the rear alleyway," said Mr Bentley.

"Both males were wearing high visibility vests and carrying grey Royal Mail bags."

The officer followed the men to Leigh bus station, where one of the bags was later recovered.

Police reinforcements arrived and chased the pair, who were both caught nearby at Spinning Jenny Way.

Greensmith dropped a bag containing jewellery he had just grabbed from the store and when Haigh was searched officers found a small amount of cannabis on him.

Both pleaded guilty to burglary and, in addition, Haigh admitted possessing cannabis.

The court heard that both Greensmith, aged 47, of Hope Carr Lane, Leigh and Haigh, aged 49, of Cowper Avenue, Hag Fold, Atherton, have multiple criminal convictions, including many for theft and burglary.

Greensmith has 50 previous convictions for 115 offences dating back up to 30 years, while Haigh has 24 convictions for 67 offences, although non for serious crimes since 2011.

Verity Quaite, defending Greensmith, said: "It's clear that Mr Greensmith has an unenviable record. It shows the type of persistent, acquisitive offending that is often seen by the courts in those who are struggling with drug addiction.

"Mr Greensmith committed this offence to fund his drug habit.

"He is truly sorry for what he has done."

Rachel Cooper, for Haigh, stressed that he had been drug-free for eight years but returned to using heroin after the death of his mother last year.

"He simply did not cope with that loss. He thought he could use heroin again just once to stop what he was feeling," said Miss Cooper.

"Of course, he was entirely wrong about that and very rapidly spiralled back into drug addiction."

Judge Graeme Smith sentenced Greensmith to 18 months in jail and Haigh to 16 months in prison, suspended for two years with an 8pm to 7am curfew for three months, a drug treatment programme and 25 days of rehabilitation activities.

He told the pair: "It's obvious, because it is in the news all the time, the economic damage that is being caused to companies by virtue of the lockdown, in particular non-essential shops including jewellers.

"Therefore, to find themselves the subject of a burglary as well is, to put it colloquially, adding insult to injury.

"The shop is closed because it has to be. It is therefore not occupied and you took this opportunity to break in in a fairly brazen manner and steal jewellery by literally sweeping it, in its packaging, into bags.

"There was clearly a significant degree of planning."