Prolific south London thieves stole chocolate to feed desire to steal
9:49am Wednesday 16th March 2011 in News
Two prolific thieves who stole property worth around £190,000 - including a chocolate cake to feed their desire to steal - have pleaded guilty to 273 burglaries.
Michelle Cole, 35, from Knighton Park Road in Sydenham, and Delwyn Grant, 32, of Anerley Road, Anerley, pleaded guilty to the crimes across south London and beyond, between October 2009 and March 2010.
Their crime spree took them to the home of Harlequins Rugby Club, the Twickenham Stoop stadium, in Langhorn Drive, where they broke into a TV crew's van.
They also targeted the plush Lensbury Club, in Broom Road, Teddington.
At Kingston Crown Court, Grant was sentenced to two years in prison, while Cole was sentenced to twelve months, suspended for two years. She also got 120 hours unpaid community work and a supervision order for 24 months.
During the spree, the court heard how the pair stole items ranging from top of the range jewellery to a goldfish bowl and a bespoke chocolate cake they ate to keep them going on a single day where they committed up to 15 offences.
They targeted car parks belonging to sports centres, other leisure facilities and hotels when they knew patrons would be leaving their vehicles unattended for some time with valuables inside.
Many victims had left personal possessions in their vehicles while using the facilities rather than using lockers and safes provided in the mistaken belief they would be safe locked away in boots or glove compartments.
The defendants gained entry by either smashing back windows or drilling through locks.
Once inside, they searched glove compartments, boots and other areas of the car, taking away any bags containing personal effects.
Items stolen included wallets, jewellery, phones, lap-tops and high-value watches. The bags and any unwanted belongings would then be discarded nearby.
It is estimated that the value of property stolen was in the region of £190,000 and the damage caused to vehicles in excess of £50,000.
The series of thefts took place in Cheshunt in Herts, High Wycombe and Reading in Thames Valley, and Met boroughs: Bromley, Bexley, Sutton, Croydon, Merton, Hounslow, Twickenham and Kingston.
The Metropolitan Police Service's London Crime Squad and South West Area Operation Themis launched a joint investigation, in conjunction with colleagues from Sutton borough, after the thefts were linked, which resulted in Cole and Grant being arrested in March 2010, and subsequently charged in November 2010 with conspiracy to steal.
Detective Inspector Lee Hill, from the London Crime Squad, said: "The defendants were responsible for an unprecedented amount of thefts from cars across a very large geographical area, causing considerable distress to their victims.
"Our investigation involved a meticulous examination of all the offences that came to light and working tirelessly to piece together the evidence, enabling us to put this pair before the courts.
"I hope today's outcome will send a clear message that these offences will not be tolerated and reassure the public that we are taking action to reduce incidence of crime in their area.
"I would like to pay tribute to the investigative team, in particular DS Chris Grant, for their tenacity and diligence."