TWO men responsible for an armed diamond heist in Colchester have avoided jail.

Despite having a combined 24 convictions for 74 offences the hapless burglars had their jail sentences suspended following a raid at town centre jewellers Ernest Jones.

Raymond Tauchert, 55, of Dedham Road and Carlton Ho-Ten-Pow, 36, of Mario Way are both now free to return to the town with Recorder Richard Sutton QC telling the pair he still hopes “the streets of Colchester are not bothered by you for the next two to three years”.

The raid was carried out during the early hours of October 20 at the jewellers in Shewell Walk, off Culver Square.

Michael Crimp, prosecuting at Ipswich Crown Court today, said: “A member of the public called the police to say a burglary was taking place.

“These defendants were putting their hands through the holes they had made in the window and taking jewellery.

“A CCTV camera operator was alerted and saw the two men getting into a vehicle nearby.

“He followed the vehicle on his camera and in due course police officers, having been alerted, followed the vehicle until it turned into a dead end.”

The pair were caught with £500 worth of jewellery and half a hammer, the other half having been left in the window of the shop.

Three rings worth an estimated £7,700 are still missing and about £1,000 damage was caused.

Both admitted one count of burglary.

Tauchert, who has 18 convictions for 52 offences, was on licence at the time of the burglary having been jailed for nine years in 2010 for conspiracy to supply class A drugs and handling stolen goods having been part of a gang raiding warehouses.

Harry Grayson, mitigating, said Tauchert had been released in March 2013 and “had not committed an offence in over three years”.

He said: “The death of his mother in the summer from cancer left him completely bereft.

“He went back to taking heroin. He took 100 morphine tablets and was committed to hospital.

“There was a third man who does appear to have gotten away with the more expensive items.”

Convicted drug trafficker Ho-Ten-Pow has six convictions for 22 offences and was the subject of a community order at the time of the burglary.

Folashade Abiodun, mitigating for Ho-Ten-Pow, said: “He accepts he is in the wrong. He accepts he took the hammer. He will say his life was spiralling out of control having been in a relationship that was not a very positive one.”

The court heard the father-of-two had lost four-and-a-half stone from stress and falling back into drug use.

Both were jailed for two years but the sentence was suspended. They were ordered to observe a drug rehabilitation requirement for 12 months and carry out 40 days of rehabilitation activity requirement.

Ho-Ten-Pow was ordered to pay £500 compensation for the almost £10,000 in stolen jewellery and damage.

Tauchert will not pay compensation because he cannot afford it.

Recorder Sutton QC said: “These are men who have a good history of knowing how to offend.

“A community punishment for this type of offence may be thought to be too unduly lenient.

“They armed themselves with a hammer. They are not sad drug addicts trying to get their next fix.

“My first instinct was you should be going to prison for a period of three-and-a-half years.”

However he took off time served in custody since the end of October and a third for the guilty pleas and then suspended the sentence.