A Leeds gang involved in the organised theft of more than £1.5m of goods from lorries across the country have been jailed for a total of 43 years.
A police investigation into the organised supply of drugs initially saw officers focus their attention on the home of Jade Brannan in Finch Drive, Colton, close to junction 46 of the M1.
Enquiries identified that a number of different vehicles that were variously linked to the members of the gang were attending the address and making regular overnight journeys to other parts of the country.
Checks with the relevant police forces found that many of the overnight journeys coincided with thefts from heavy goods vehicles.
It soon became clear that those linked to the address in Finch Drive were involved in the organised theft from HGVs on a large-scale nationally and the house was being used as their base.
In each of the incidents, the vehicles were targeted while the drivers were parked up on rest breaks. The offenders either slashed open the curtain side of the targeted vehicle or forced the rear doors and unloaded pallets of goods and drove off with them.
On occasions drivers initially challenged those involved but feared for their safety when faced with a large group armed with knives and metal bars.
The items stolen by the gang included thousands of pounds worth of alloy wheels, tyres, power tools, hair straighteners, cosmetics, face cream, jewellery and men’s and women’s clothing.
They were arrested and charged with conspiracy to steal from HGVs between November 22, 2017, and May 23, 2018.
Although eight defendants were convicted of the conspiracy, it is believed a number of other unidentified individuals were involved in offences comprising a much greater value than the incidents that could be linked to the group.
Enquiries showed the ringleaders were John Kitchen, a north-east Leeds based offender, and south Leeds-based criminal Dominic Bailey, who had joined forces to run the criminal enterprise.
Two of the group, John Kitchen and Kieran Marshall, were also sentenced over a dramatic ram raid at a jewellers in Leeds city centre as part of their crime spree.
Kitchen was also found guilty at a trial in February last year of a ram-raid robbery at Hyman’s Jewellers, in Call Lane, Leeds.
On October 25, 2017, a red Ford Ranger 4x4 was reversed into the front of the shop, terrifying staff and causing significant damage.
Kitchen, who was armed with a sledgehammer, was captured on CCTV footage warning staff to stay back as he rifled through the window display before stealing a Rolex watch.
Accomplice Kieran Marshall, at the wheel of the 4x4, saw the shop’s security shutter closing and reversed again to block it, knocking Kitchen down in the process but helping him to avoid being trapped.
Kitchen, aged 28, of Tarnside Drive, Seacroft, was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in relation to the robberies and the conspiracy to steal from HGVs.
Dominic Bailey, aged 30, of Potternewton Lane, Chapel Allerton, was jailed for four years and six month for his part in the conspiracy.
Kieran Marshall, aged 29, of Hawkshead Crescent, Seacroft, was sentenced to 14 years and six months for the Hyman’s robbery and the conspiracy.
Jade Brannan, aged 29, of Finch Drive, Colton, was sentenced to six months for the conspiracy. She was given to two years and six months for possession of cocaine with intent to supply in relation to the drugs investigation when she appeared at court in October last year.
Liam Bellwood, aged 33, of Sutherland Terrace, Burmantofts, was jailed for four years and four months for the conspiracy and for the robbery of a woman at Hetchell Wood, in Milner Lane, Thorner, in October 2018.
Shane Henriques, aged 30, of Grange Close, Hunslet, was sentenced to 19 months.
Benjamin McCarron, aged 31, of Zermatt Street, Chapel Allerton, was given an 18-month suspended sentence.
Kieran Smith, aged 28, of Scott Hall Avenue, Chapeltown, was sentenced to two years for the conspiracy.
Inspector Mick Preston, who heads the Leeds East Neighbourhood Policing Team that led the investigation, said:
The ringleaders of this group are prolific criminals with long offending histories who have been negative role models of the worst kind in their communities over a number of years.