BURGLARS who travelled more than 20 miles to steal householders’ cars in a series of planned raids have been put behind bars.
Christopher Ball and Keiran Gettins, with others who have yet to be caught, drove from Sunderland to Northumberland where car keys were snatched from houses while the owners were inside.
During the three break-ins the gang made off with four cars worth a total of almost £20,000.
Three vehicles were recovered, by then with false number plates, in the Sunderland and South Tyneside area.
The offences all happened in late 2013.
At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday Ball, 31, from Sunderland, who is already serving a 10-year sentence for violence, was jailed for three years.
Gettins, 20, of Helmsdale Road, Sunderland, was jailed for 22 months.
Both men had admitted conspiracy to burgle.
Lee Colin, 31, of Warkworth Crescent, Seaham, was jailed for 14 months after he admitted handling the stolen cars and breach of a suspended sentence.
Miss Recorder Turner told them: “It must have been a pretty traumatic and unsettling experience for the householders.
“There must have been a considerable degree of planning and preparation and membership of a group or gang is a feature.
“The occupants were at home, that they were not disturbed was fortunate and a mercy for them.
“They were reach-in burglaries but nevertheless they would have got up and gone downstairs or looked out of the window and seen their vehicles had gone.
“High value goods were taken.”
The judge accepted that Colin was the least involved.
However he told him: “You knew those vehicles were not straight, you knew they had been stolen.”
The court heard houses in Long Horsley and Cramlington were the targets of the raids.
Tony Hawks, defending Ball, said the men had gone to Northumberland on a hunting trip when the idea arose to carry out the raids and they had not been pre-planned.
All three men have a long list of previous convictions.