A GANG of professional burglars who toured the south east breaking into homes have been jailed for a total of 26 years.
Lee Riley, Lee Ash, Steven White, Guy Harbord and Justin Collins worked together to burgle more than 80 homes over two years in West Sussex, Surrey, Essex, Oxfordshire and Hampshire.
Detectives from Sussex Police worked with colleagues in each of the other counties involved to bring the five men to justice at Winchester Crown Court.
Sussex Police launched Operation Magpie last year to tackle burglary across the county.
Between 2011 and 2013 a total of 24 homes in rural locations in Sussex were targeted by the gang. In each case they struck during the daytime after waiting for the owners to go out, first forcing open doors and windows and then stealing jewellery and antiques worth an estimated £250,000.
At some of the homes they took keys and stole vehicles off the driveways before fitting them with false numberplates so they could be used as getaway cars during other burglaries.
They were caught after a team of detectives from a unit dedicated to preventing and solving burglaries collected forensic evidence and used technology to trace the journeys the men had made.
Among the homes targeted were properties in Walderton, Wisborough Green, Midhurst, Upper Easebourne, Loxwood, Fernhurst, Rogate and Fulking.
Guy Harbord, 30, of Lordship Lane, Dulwich, London, was jailed for five years and six months. Steven White, 30, of no fixed address, was jailed for five years and six months. Justin Collins, 35, of no fixed address, was jailed for six years. Leigh James Ash, 31, of High Street, Sutton, was jailed for five years and three months. Liam Riley, 26, of Panmure Road, Sydenham, London, was sentenced to four years.
Detective Constable Jon Woolley said: “The men were caught because of co-operation between the different forces and good work by the teams collecting the different types of evidence.
“If we had not pooled our resources and our intelligence these men could have continued carrying out burglaries without disruption.”
Anyone with information about burglaries should call 101, email email@example.com or call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
If you see a burglary taking place call 999.