A SWANLEY man has been left disgusted by a pair of burglars who stole his grandfather’s war medals and ransacked his beloved home.
Colin Eldridge’s house in Crescent Gardens was broken into by Aragorn Dudley, 20, and Connor Read, 19, who were caught with the medals in a garden nearby shortly after the theft.
The 65-year-old says he came home after visiting his mother Eileen, 95, in Darent Valley Hospital to find a policewoman standing in his drive and the garage door wide open.
An eagle-eyed neighbour had spotted two men acting suspiciously around the property and called police who found Dudley cowering in Mr Eldridges’s downstairs toilet.
The former draughtsman said: "They took three or four of my grandfather war medals, a few brooches of my mum’s and a bottle of Jamaican rum my sister brought back.
"They tore open some cardboard charity boxes and the coins were all over the floor in the dining room.
Mr Eldridge and his grandfather's cash box.
"They even looked in the tea caddie which just had tea bags in it."
As well as making off with the medals of former First World War naval officer Edward Quinton, Dudley and Read broke into a cash box belonging to Mr Eldridge’s other grandfather Frank Eldridge.
His grandson said: "It was an ornate gold-coloured thing made of steel which is now irreparable.
"All it had in it was some of my grandfather’s papers. He died in 1928 and all we have of him is a photo.
"We don’t keep money in the house - we have banks for that."
Mr Eldridge, who grew up in the four-bedroom house from the age of six, says he no longer feels safe in the home he has lived in since 1955.
The treasured heirloom has been damaged beyond repair.
He said: "It’s nasty, traumatic and you feel attacked in your own home.
"You feel vulnerable because you think you’re safe in your own castle and then you come back and find the place has been invaded.
"I still feel a bit uneasy particularly when I am on my own."
At Maidstone Crown Court on December 19 both Reed and Dudley, previously of Britton Street, Gillingham, were sentenced to 22 months in prison following the raid on September 7.
Officers scaled the back wall of Mr Eldridge’s home and found a ladder propped up against the rear of the building and a first floor window open.
Dudley was found by officers hiding in the downstairs toilet with an MP3 player, charger and headphones.
Reed also admitted three further burglaries - one in Meopham and two in Gillingham.