A PROLIFIC burglar put the lives of school children at risk during a high speed chase which a police officer described as one of the worst pieces of driving he had ever seen.

Robert Davanzo was in a Vauxhall Astra which sped through Maldon being chased by police who believed he had been involved in a string of burglaries.

After three miles, police were forced to abandon the pursuit when the Astra screamed down Mill Road at 40mph when officers estimated the safest speed was just 5mph as dozens of youngsters were leaving school.

During the pursuit, various items including tools and a jacket were hurled at the officers.

Officers began chasing Davanzo, 24, after he and another man had attempted to raid a house in Spring Sedge Close, Stanway.

The pair got in through the backdoor but fled when a woman inside screamed out.

The victim described the car she had seen the pair in, and police found it was driving around in convoy with a white Ford S-Max.

Checks on the £12,000 Ford showed it had been stolen from Kings Meadow, Colchester, along with jewellery and cash while raiders had also stuffed tea towels into the kitchen sink before running the taps.

Another house in Eliot Way, Maldon , was ransacked by Davanzo and his accomplice on the same day and £1,000 worth of goods were removed.

Prior to the spree on February 4, Davanzo stole £35,000 worth of gold and electrical items from a house in Ashby Road, Witham in January.

The victim saw two men on his CCTV app while he was out, and asked his brother-in-law to check the house was secure.

When he arrived, he saw two men leaving with the items and one of them threatened him with an unknown liquid.

Judge David Pugh sentenced him to three years in jail at Chelmsford Crown Court.

He said: “At times on single carriage roads you were travelling at 70mph and 40 mph just a few feet from a number of children.

“An officer said it was one of the most dangerous pieces of driving he had ever witnessed.”

Davanzo admitted dangerous driving, three counts of burglary, one attempted burglary and theft of a car.

Another man arrested at the time - Ricky Ingram - was found not guilty of burglary.

Davanzo, of Crix Green, Felsted, has 16 convictions for 29 previous offences but Tim Nutley, mitigating, said he had turned back to crime after losing his job.

He said: “He found himself in a position with two young children and a partner he needed to support.”He made the mistake of going back with the wrong crowd.”