Police charge pair in 40 Blackburn break-ins

Ottawa police have charged a man and woman in relation to 40 cases of breaking and entering in the city's Blackburn Hamlet neighbourhood.

Couple faces more than 100 charges linked to string of robberies

Residents in the Blackburn Hamlet neighbourhood hope they can breathe a sigh of relief, following the arrests of two people in relation to a rash of break-ins that targeted 40 homes between June 2010 and now.

Ottawa police last week arrested and charged a 45-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman after investigators received dozens of tips from the public last Wednesday. Altogether, the pair face 133 charges, including 69 counts of breaking and entering, 29 counts of possession of property obtained by crime, and six counts of using a stolen credit card.

While the thieves managed to elude police for a year and a half — leaving little in the way of DNA, and managing to escape with only vague eyewitness accounts — it was the use of a stolen credit card that was their first slip-up, said Staff-Sgt. Kal Ghadban, who heads the Ottawa police break and enter unit.

"One of the suspects, it appears, used one of the stolen credit cards that they had taken from a break-in," Ghadban said.

The image of a male suspect was captured on police surveillance and distributed through the media last Wednesday. Information began to flow shortly afterwards, with tipsters providing the male suspect's name, where he lived, and the name of his alleged accomplice.

'Quite brazen'

"This case has rattled the sense of security of residents in the Blackburn area," Ghadban said.

Residences along nearly half of the streets in Blackburn Hamlet were struck by the thieves, who entered through basements or from ground level, then ransacked homes, using pillow cases, small suitcases and backpacks to carry their loot. They fled on foot.

Police say the accused couple used to live in Blackburn Hamlet and were familiar with the area.

Among the robbery victims were John and Mary Holding.

"They must have gone quickly while I was having a shower and scooted upstairs," John Holding said. "When I came out of the shower in a dressing gown, walked upstairs to get dressed, the lights were on they shouldn't have been, and the jewelry boxes were missing."

The thieves managed to pry open a basement window, squeeze through and run out the front door with $25,000 worth of family heirlooms.

"That was quite brazen," Holding said.

Police said only a small amount of the stolen items have been recovered. The investigation continues as officers hope to find more of the stolen property.

The man has been held in custody pending a bail court hearing. The woman has been released on a promise to appear in court Jan. 18.