A VIOLENT burglar was part of a gang sprayed a man’s eyes with oven cleaner after breaking into his home in the middle of the night.

Kieron Nickels has been given an eight year prison sentence after carrying out a string of burglaries and thefts across south Essex.

The 20-year-old was a member of a gang that stole items such as purses, cash, computer equipment and jewellery from homes in Basildon, Benfleet and Southend.

He was jailed at Basildon Crown Court yesterday.

In his most serious offence of aggravated burglary, Nickels, of Orlando Drive, Basildon, went with the gang to a home in Glenhurst Road, Southend at 1.40am on September 18 last year, where a married couple lived with two children aged four and two.

The father heard a noise and went to investigate, but was stopped downstairs by four to five men wearing balaclavas.

The man tried to push the thugs away, but one of the men, armed with a bottle of oven cleaner, sprayed him in the face with it and pinned him to the floor.

Other members of the gang went upstairs into the couple’s bedroom, shouting at the woman to be quiet, but then the gang left the property.

Prosecuting, Harry Hewitt said: “The victim was examined by a doctor but fortunately there was no damage to his eyes.

“His wife received a text from her bank to say one of her cards was used in Tesco in Pitsea, and realised her handbag had been stolen containing her purse, bank cards and cash.

“A bottle of Jack Daniels was refused to be sold and his fingerprints were picked up on the bottle.”

Mr Hewitt said that several days later a black Mercedes was found in Basildon that matched one seen in CCTV for the other offences, and the oven cleaner was found in the back.

Nickels also carried out burglaries in the Burnt Mills Industrial Estate where computer equipment was taken from a depot, and broke into other homes to steal jewellery.

Mitigating, Mike Warren told the court that Nickels was a younger member of the gang who had fallen into bad habits after being taken into care as a child.

The gang claimed to target houses where they believed cannabis was stored.

However, Judge Samantha Leigh told the court there was no evidence any properties that were targeted had cannabis inside.

Judge Leigh sentenced Nickels to eight years in prison and three to be served on licence.