Yorkshire 'car key burglary' gang locked up

A gang of 14 "car-key burglars", document forgers and stolen vehicle sellers who cut a £6million swathe across the North, the North West and West Midlands has been jailed for a total of 52 years.

The gang were snared by a joint investigation by West, North and South Yorkshire and Humberside police forces backed by Lancashire Police.

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Victims whose homes were burgled and vehicles stolen "to order" to sell on with forged documents were targetted throughout Yorkshire and the north.

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Householders in Tingley, Leeds; Wakefield; Boston Spa; Birkenshaw; Cleckheaton, Ilkley, Bradford and Bingley were among those who had luxury motors stolen – by burglars who stole ignition keys.

Last autumn police identified individuals suspected of committing many burglaries involving vehicle thefts across the force areas to pass onto stolen car sellers. A cross-border investigation was set up to "fit the jigsaw" together.

"Operation Yankee" shared resources and the team had a designated prosecution lawyer and was helped by the Lincolnshire Police and Regional Assets Recovery Team. In four months the team identified the key movers and evidence.

The thieves recorded the makes, models and registrations of high value cars and then located similar vehicles on driveways to steal.

Burglary gangs – one led by Matthew Richard Holmes, 29, of Thorpe Edge, Bradford – then raided homes stealing keys and driving off Range Rovers, Land Rovers, BMWs, Volvos, Minis, Hondas, Nissans and Peugeots.

Cars were given false plates matching vehicle whose identity were to be stolen before being parked nearby to check for tracking devices.

Holmes and his gang then sold them to "middle man" Nevada Smith, 29, of Pony Paddocks Caravan site, Toll Bar, Doncaster.

The input of expert printer Gary Swinden, 52, and his partner, Victoria Laws, 41, of Field Drive, Barnsley, in producing high quality bogus "V5" DVLA certificates, other documents and licence plates at Zebra Studios in Barnsley, was crucial in helping subsequent sales.

Many buyers failed to question low prices or why sellers insisted on cash in the open.

Smith and brothers, John, 23, and Dean Doyle, 29, of Bradford, linked

the prolific thieving network to the travelling community.

During raids police made 24 arrests. Over 100,000 was found at Pony Paddocks. At Zebra Studios 40,000 cash was recovered with 81 stolen V5 documents along with details of cloned licence plates. Investigations via Autotrader put the stolen vehicles' value at 6million.

Judge Hoffman described Smith as the "hub of the wheel" spanning burglary gangs and part of a "serious scale" professional criminal gang.

He described John Doyle as a "habitual offender, dedicated to crime" and Dean Doyle as "a career criminal". Swinden's graphic designer skills had been key in producing vital documents.

Det Chief Insp Lisa Atkinson said: "We have never had four police forces and other agencies working in such close co-operation on such an operation and it has been pioneering work."