Bungling burglars captured on dashcam compared in court to the Marx Brothers

James Lake was caught on the dash cam in the vehicle he stole.
James Lake was caught on the dash cam in the vehicle he stole.

Bungling burglars who didn’t know they were being filmed by their own getaway car, have been sentenced by a judge who told them he had been sickened watching the footage of them gloating about what they had done.

James Lake, 43, who was driving the stolen car was given a 40 month jail sentence, while his ‘lookout’, Peter Moran, was given a suspended sentence.

Judge Barry Lucie told the pair on Thursday (21 January) when they appeared before him to be sentenced for the break in: “I found it quite sickening to watch the pair of you gloating about what you were up to.

“You were both plainly under the influence of drink and drugs that night.”

The pair – together with a third man who is still at large – drove from the burgled house in Bedford in the car which was a taxi cab and belonged to the occupant of the property.

What the trio – who were compared in court to the Marx Brothers – didn’t know was that it was fitted with a dash cam that filmed and recorded everything they said and did inside the car.

Detectives couldn’t believe their luck when the car was recovered in Bedford where the burglars had abandoned it and the dash cam footage was played.

First, the pair were seen arguing about where the handbrake was; then they reversed into the car behind and, after trading four-letter insults, had a full blown fight – as the vehicle was moving.

Some of the footage was played at Luton crown court before Moran and Lake were sentenced on Thursday.

It showed James Lake, who had entered the house in Bedford, his accomplice Moran, who had remained outside as a lookout, and a third man who had also been a lookout, all jump into the householder’s taxi, having taken the ignition keys along with an iPad

But a quick getaway was out of the question: no one knew where the handbrake was.

James Lake
James Lake

Lake, who was in the driver’s seat, shouted: “Where’s the f***ing handbrake? Where’s the handbrake? Where’s the handbrake?”

Moran: “I’m looking for it.”

Moments later he tells Lake: “Alright go, get the (interior) lights off. Get the wipers off.”

Lake: “Where’s the handbrake?”

Moran: “You’re in the wrong gear.”

Lake: “No I’m in reverse. Where’s the handbrake?”

Moran: “I don’t f***ing know. You’re the car thief mate.”

Moran then turns to the third man on the back seat saying: “Oi! Where’s the f***ing handbrake mate?”

Lake then tells Moran: “Keep looking at the window (of the burgled house) please.”

Moran: “I am f***ing looking. I can only do one thing at a time.”

He then remarks on how long it’s taking to move off and Lake tells him: “Shut up man.”

Moran: “What do you mean shut up, you ****.”

The car finally begins to reverse, only to bump into the car parked behind.

Moran: “You d*ckhead.”

On Thursday Lake of Crescent Road, Luton was given a 40 month sentence after he pleaded guilty to the burglary. He also asked for 69 other dwelling house burglaries committed between 1995 and 2017 to be taken into consideration

Moran, a 55 year old father of five of Elgar Path, Luton, had been found guilty of the burglary at the end of his trial in November.

On a Thursday he appeared for sentence along side Lake and received a two year sentence which was suspended for 18 months.

The third man who was said to have taken part in the burglary as the other ‘look out’, wasn’t before the court, having jumped his bail.

The court was told the break-in had been at the home of a taxi driver and his family in Hurst Grove, Bedford in the early hours of 19 September 2019.

Daniel Wright, prosecuting, told the court the family had gone to bed around 10pm, but they didn’t realise the front door had been left insecure.

The following morning they found their home had been broken into and the husband’s taxi, a Volkswagen Passat that had been parked outside the property the night before, was no longer there.

Footage from the CCTV system at a neighbour’s home produced images of three people acting suspiciously in the road around 4.50am that morning.

Bedfordshire Police launched an investigation.

The court was told the car was found abandoned in St Johns Street, Bedford later that day with the dash cam system still intact.

Following the gang’s inept departure from the scene, the vehicle’s cctv continued to record and film the burglars inside the car.

With Asian style music blaring out over the sound system, Moran says: “For f**** sake, change this music.”

When he tells the driver to slow down and keep on the road, Lake tells him: “Shut up you d*** I know what I’m doing.”

The pair can then be seen and heard arguing about items of the taxi driver’s property Moran has found in the vehicle.

When Moran finds a phone, Lake tells him he will have it.

Moran: “Hang on a second, it’s mine ya ****.”

Lake: “How is it?”

Moran: “I’m the one that found it.”

As the row continues, Moran tells Lake: “Stop saying this is yours and that’s your. It’s ours. It’s all ours. I’m in this with you, yeah?”

There is then a scuffle between the men captured by the camera as Moran hits Lake in the mouth, who then hits him back.

Moran is heard saying: “Get off me, you ****.”

Lake answers: “Silly ****.”

Moran: “Get off.”

Lake: “F***ing bite my hand.”

They settle back in their seats and later Lake tells Moran: “Do you know what I love about you? F**k all, ya w***er.”

The hapless Chico, Groucho and Harpo Marx

At the trial of Moran last November, prosecutor Mr Wright told the the jury, the footage they had seen of them trying to get the car started was like a scene from a Marx Brothers film.

Lake had committed the break in just two weeks after coming out of prison, having served a 54 month jail sentence for a dwelling house burglary in which he had stolen the occupant’s car.

Both Lake and Moran had a long history of drug abuse which had lead to their offending over the years.

Judge Lucie told co-defendant James Lake he would be on licence for 20 months following his eventual release from prison.

Moran was told he would be subject to a six-month Drug Rehabilitation Requirement and a 20-day Rehabilitation Requirement when he will work with probation staff to address his offending.

The Marx Brothers were an American family comedy act that was successful in Vaudeville, on Broadway and in motion pictures from 1905 to 1949.

At the heart of the act was the three elder brothers: Chico, Harpo, and Groucho.

  • Correction: This article was updated on 22 January at 15:07 to correct comments from the judge to the defendant James Lake that were originally reported to have been said to Peter Moran.

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