'Most wanted' distraction burglar jailed five years after escape

Distraction burglar Peter Kerrigan.

Distraction burglar Peter Kerrigan. - Credit: Met Police

A man once dubbed "Britain's most prolific burglar" has been jailed after his attempt to steal from a Hampstead pensioner saw him arrested five years on from a national manhunt.

Peter Kerrigan had been on the run since walking out of the John Howard Centre in Homerton - where he was serving a custodial sentence for a series of distraction burglaries - in 2015.

The 33-year-old was finally arrested last July when police identified him as the suspect in another distraction burglary. On March 17 2020 he had posed as a Camden Council labourer to trick a woman living in NW3 into letting him in.

His victim disturbed him while he was rifling through her purse in her bedroom and he left without stealing anything, but footage from her video doorbell helped police to apprehend him.

Kerrigan was jailed for four years for this crime, and for "escaping lawful custody", on January 27 after previously pleading guilty.

He had absconded from custody at the John Howard Centre while on "escorted leave" when, in the Narroway, he threatened a member of staff and ran off. He had been remanded at the mental health facility on a six-year sentence after a 2010 conviction for a spree of burglaries, which involved him pretending to be a police officer to target vulnerable pensioners.

This incident and a number of others where inmates at the John Howard Centre absconded saw electronic tagging introduced for those on escorted leave.

His escape led to an unsuccessful national manhunt, and he was one of Hackney Police's most wanted fugitives, even appearing on Crimewatch.

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Kerrigan, who was living in Queen's Crescent, Camden at the time of his arrest, had previously been jailed for eight years after admitting to almost 1,400 offences when he was just 17.

Det Const Stacey Whitaker, who led the investigation, said: “Distraction burglary is extremely upsetting and traumatic for those involved therefore it is only right that Kerrigan – who has a history of offending - has received this sentence.

"I’d like to thank the local community for providing vital information regarding the whereabouts of Kerrigan which led to his arrest.”