Burglars accused of stealing more than £500,000 in luxury items and targeting wealthy people like Raheem Sterling have been jailed.
Thomas Mee, 42, Vincent Ball, 52 and John Barlow, 58, all from Liverpool, have admitted conspiracy to burgle homes across the UK, Chester Crown Court heard on 31 July.
Their targets, besides the England star, in the almost year-long spree included Jamiroquai singer Jay Kay’s Buckinghamshire house and the homes of Bury FC chairman Steve Dale and Mansfield Town owner John Radford.
Prosecutor Simon Parry said the three are “highly organised and sophisticated house burglars” who used techniques like cloned number plates and “dirty phones” to avoid being detected.
They attempted to burgle Manchester City and England footballer Sterling’s home in Cheshire in November 2018 but Parry said the alarm scared them off and nothing was taken.
Undeterred, they targeted Kay’s home 10 days later.
In October 2019, they were disturbed while in Dale’s home and dropped watches worth between £300,000 and £500,000 as his son chased them – leaving the burglars with only a £10 note.
They were arrested, and a car used by the men was found to contain balaclavas, binoculars, crowbars and cloned number plates, while £125,000 in cash was found in a property belonging to Mee.
In total, they hauled £550,000 of jewellery, watches and handbags from 14 properties in Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire, Buckinghamshire and Warwickshire between November 2018 and October 2019, Chester Crown Court heard.
Photos of some of the handbags were found on Mee’s phone. He admitted handling stolen goods.
Victim Cheryl Batson, who had £146,000 worth of jewellery and handbags, as well as a Louis Vuitton scarf, taken from her home in Willaston, Cheshire, said she suffered anxiety and distress after the raid.
She said: “I have a heartbreaking feeling of loss over the sentimental pieces of jewellery which belonged to my late grandmother.
“I cannot stress enough the heartache I feel over having these items taken from me.”
A spokesman 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.”
Andrew Alty, defending Mee, said it was the defendant’s case that the money was legitimate.
Mee posted a letter to the home of one of the victims expressing remorse, which Judge Steven Everett said was “ignorant and selfish”.
Anthony Russell, whose property in Lymm, Cheshire, was broken into by the gang, said: “I only hope this is absolutely genuine but perhaps we would really have preferred not to receive this letter.”
Mee, of HMP Altcourse was jailed for eight years and seven months while getaway driver Ball was sentenced to six years and nine months.
Barlow, of no fixed address, was jailed for seven years and six months.