Three men who caused damage and stole items to a total value of more than £600,000 during a series of burglaries across the country, including Wilmslow, have been jailed for more than 24 years.
Vincent Ball, John Barlow and Thomas Mee, all members of a sophisticated organised crime gang from Liverpool, committed at least 14 burglaries between them at addresses in Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire, Buckinghamshire and Warwickshire between November 2018 and October 2019.
The group specifically targeted homes in affluent rural locations and stole high value watches, designer handbags and jewellery worth more than half-a-million pounds.
The majority of the burglaries were committed during the hours of darkness and at weekends. Ball acted as the getaway driver, while Barlow and Mee carried out the burglaries.
The group first came to Cheshire Constabulary's attention in late 2018 when a series of burglaries were committed by offenders using ladders to enter properties through first floor windows and doors to ultimately avoid setting off house alarms.
An investigation was launched by officers from the force's Serious and Organised Crime Unit and over the following months officers began piecing together a raft of evidence linking the trio to burglaries across Cheshire.
These included incidents in Wilmslow, Prestbury, Goostrey, Neston, Allostock, Mere, Chelford, and Lymm.
They also found evidence which linked the men to burglaries in Barnby Moor in Nottinghamshire, Barnt Green in Worcestershire, Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire and Lapworth in Warwickshire.
Their downfall came at around 8.30pm on Saturday 5 October 2019 when police received a 999 call from a resident in Prestbury reporting that a family member had disturbed a number of intruders at their Macclesfield Road home. Whilst fleeing the property the burglars dropped valuable items worth approximately £500,000.
Police were at the scene within minutes and Ball and Mee were arrested a short time later in Massey Street in Alderley Edge, where officers also discovered a Vauxhall Insignia which the group had used as their getaway car.
Within the car officers found crowbars, walkie-talkies, torches, mobile phones, disposable gloves, false number plates, along with various items of clothing which contained traces of Barlow and Mee's DNA.
Barlow managed to evade officers on the night, disposing of some of his clothing and making his way back to Alderley Edge before travelling back to Liverpool in a taxi in the early hours of the morning. He was arrested on Monday 28 October.
During subsequent searches of the trio's homes in Merseyside, officers discovered a significant amount of evidence, including stolen items, a large quantity of cash and mobile phones.
One of the phones recovered belonging to Mee was found to contain pictures of items that were stolen from several of the burglaries.
Ball, 52, Barlow, 58, and Mee, 42, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle and were sentenced at Chester Crown Court today, Friday 31 July. Mee also admitted three counts of handling stolen goods.
They were jailed for a total of 24 years and 10 months
A spokesperson from Cheshire Constabulary's Serious and Organised Crime Unit said: "Ball, Barlow and Mee are all members of a sophisticated organised crime gang responsible for at least 14 burglaries across England.
"They showed an extreme level of forensic and digital awareness when committing the offences, demonstrating their determination to obtain hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of other people's property and family heirlooms.
"A significant level of planning and preparation went into each burglary, with the trio travelling hundreds of miles to commit the offences and specifically targeting the homes of high profile businessmen and women, footballers and celebrities.
"In these 14 incidents alone they caused damage and stole property to a total value of more than £600,000.
"The impact of their crime spree should not be underestimated. To know that criminals have been in your home – the place you should be able to feel most safe – rifled through your property and stole your personal possessions is sickening.
"While the majority of these incidents occurred when the victims were out, some burglaries took place while they were at home. To be subjected to such an ordeal must be absolutely terrifying and something that nobody should have to experience.
"I hope that these convictions provide some comfort and reassurance to the victims and allows them to move forward with their lives.
"I would also like to thank all of the officers involved in this case for the roles that they have played in securing the convictions against Ball, Barlow and Mee.
"As a result of their work, a major organised crime gang has been removed from our streets and the trio are now facing a significant period behind bars.
"I hope that this case acts as a warning to anyone who is planning on travelling to Cheshire to commit crimes. Our message to them is 'don't make a wasted journey'."