Series looking at burglary - its culprits, its victims and the police. In this episode, a set of stolen antique snuff boxes worth thousands of pounds are tracked down.
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Burglaries are on the increase.
It's a real trauma for, for all of us.
Usually only certain people moving around in their vehicles at night. That's taxi drivers,
emergency service and villains.
Thieves not just targeting the expensive gadgets in our homes,
they're taking our cherished heirlooms too.
Your home is your sanctuary and nobody should be in your home.
Items impossible to replace.
Why go into someone's house
and take away the things that are most important,
their security and their safety?
It's hard to take.
I don't think they've got any scruples.
But these prized possessions are often recovered.
Get in there!
The police are on our side.
-Come, open the door, we're going to put it through.
-Police with a warrant, open the door.
Specialist anti-burglary units across the UK...
Come out now and make yourself known!
..working with the latest technology...
If your print's hot at a crime scene, we're going to talk to you about it and ask why.
..and the good citizens among us...
I did say I'd stop
and just make sure that the whole family was all right.
..to track down the burglars,
and get us back our stolen goods.
They took so much trouble, especially when he suddenly said,
"Joyce, got the ring, coming round with it!"
It was fantastic.
It was really lucky, so it was nice to get him back.
This is Robbed, Raided, Reunited.
Thank you so much.
They're very good, yes.
So rewarding, such a happy day.
On today's programme...
Hertfordshire Police go after a dangerous gang
of teenage thieves who target leisure centres.
These guys are quite cocky, quite brash and they are career criminals.
They see getting arrested as an occupational hazard.
The anger felt by one man,
when he discovers his home has been broken into.
-..my second drawer this morning.
I knew not to leave it there, I normally hide it.
And Wiltshire Police are on the case
of a gang who ransacked a Lord's home...
At the time, this was the biggest robbery we'd had in Wiltshire.
..determined to recover a unique family legacy.
'I love them.'
I really do.
It's early morning
and officers from Hertfordshire are being briefed before a raid
on a gang of four teenage thieves.
The operation name for today is Operation Crevice.
It's targeting an organised crime group,
who are actively seeking to burgle commercial premises.
The four-man gang target leisure centres
for cigarettes, alcohol and slot machines
and DC Bill Patterson wants his 30 officers
to concentrate all their efforts on finding these men.
The intention of this is to execute warrants under section 8
and to recover evidence related to these offences.
In particular, items of clothing that are key to the investigation,
as well as mobile phones and SIM cards.
All four subjects will be arrested on suspicion
of conspiracy to commit a commercial burglary
at the Hollywood Bowl in North Watford.
The gang's well-known to the police
and officers like DS Cary Bull
know they've got to apprehend them as soon as possible.
These guys are quite cocky, quite brash
and they are career criminals.
They see getting arrested as an occupational hazard.
Their lifestyle is crime. They live by the proceeds of crime.
What happens generally is if we get sufficient evidence
to charge them with an offence,
they will spend time on remand, and, or in prison,
and then they'll come back out and that cycle will start again.
Because these men are habitual criminals,
they're not going to come easily. They're known to use every trick in the book to evade capture.
With this group in the past, we've had issues where phone calls
have gone in from one person to another.
It's key we secure the phones of everyone in the addresses,
and don't allow them to make any phone calls.
Please wear all your personal protective equipment.
We don't know how hostile the people in the addresses might be
and whether there'll be any resistance.
Just two weeks earlier,
the gang was caught on CCTV acting suspiciously in a leisure centre.
But that was not enough to gain a conviction.
What I can tell you with this particular group, they are quite clever.
They're on CCTV wearing identifiable clothing.
By the time they're stopped by police acting suspiciously, they have done a clothes swap,
in order to frustrate the detection of their criminality.
In today's raid,
the police are going to try and find items of clothing or other evidence
that will tie the men to the day they were caught on CCTV.
The plan is for the officers to be split into four teams
and then simultaneously raid the suspects' homes.
One team, led by Sergeant Steve Body, is going for the gang leader.
About, 2, 3 minutes away. When we get there,
we'll be looking to force entry to the premises,
predominately so we don't lose evidence.
We'll get 'em secure and we'll carry out a search of the address from there.
Sergeant Body also wants to find any SIM cards.
The actual SIM card itself will be key to the investigation, in terms of what they have done
and the evidence that will come from that, mainly to do with locations.
But he's aware that the man has an unusual way of disposing of them.
He swallows them.
We don't want them secreting those either on his person
or elsewhere in that particular property.
Which, with something that size is very easy to do.
Hopefully that's it down there on the right.
Within minutes, the police teams are nearing the suspect's address.
It's vital that all teams arrive simultaneously, so there's no time for the suspects
to tip each other off.
With all the police teams now at their designated addresses,
team one swiftly approaches the flat.
Once at the door,
they await Sergeant Body's command to go in.
Room after room is cleared as they search for the suspected man.
The house is empty. We're happy there's no-one in it.
It's the usual place we come to for these particular individuals.
Minimal property, a bit of a mess to be perfectly honest!
We'll give it the once over now,
obviously check and see if there are any phones, SIM cards and the like,
We've got specifics for clothing as well.
-So, we'll see what we can uncover.
-With the suspect not there,
the police start a systematic search of the flat
looking for evidence.
One of the officers has found some paperwork relating to a vehicle
that might belong to the suspect.
-We've got something. We've got a vehicle form anyway.
Do you want to go and have a look outside for that?
Immediately, officers including PC Simon Nelson scour the streets
-looking for his van.
-It's a vehicle
that he's linked to. We'll look to see if the vehicle's parked outside
and if it's not, we may consider waiting for the vehicle to come back.
With no vehicle found,
the police leave a patrol car in case the suspect comes back.
Police are not entirely surprised the suspect was not at this address.
One of the characteristics of criminals is that they never stay long
at any one address, moving from place to place to avoid capture.
They swap clothes, they're using stuff like that.
There were some specific items of clothing,
but a quick glance around here...
I think there's a pair of shorts there and that's about it! Which gives the impression,
he bums around, he sofa surfs... There's next to naff all here, really.
This man seemed prepared to go to any lengths should he ever be threatened with capture.
We have a hammer next to the bed.
And a knife.
Probably for protection, I imagine, if somebody was to come in. Like we did.
As well as leaving his weapons lying around, PC Spencer Neill
also finds vital memory cards.
It's a memory card for a phone.
This is apparently an SD card for a mobile phone.
It's a two gigabyte memory chip for the actual phone itself.
It could hold information relating to where he's been and what he's doing,
Beside the SIM cards,
police have also found some important papers linking the suspect with the other gang members.
I'm sure he'll turn up, they don't tend to stay at large for too long.
The paperwork we found here shows they all associate together
and they've been arrested together in the Met
and bailed for an offence for that,
so there's a good chance he may well turn up somewhere with them.
With all the evidence bagged up,
Sergeant Body's team heads off back to the station.
The four-team raid of Operation Crevice has been a huge success.
Another team, including officer Martin Sturgess,
has arrested two of the gang members.
We attended the address, he actually answered the door
on arriving there
and he was arrested by myself.
Whilst we were searching the address,
a small quantity of cannabis was found. He was further arrested for that offence
and obviously brought here to Hatfield custody today.
-Do you understand what you're in for, mate?
You will be interviewed about it.
With two of the gang members arrested,
Detective Sergeant Kerry Bull
-immediately starts assessing the evidence the teams have brought in.
-These are some of the exhibits
that were seized from the job this morning. What we've got,
essentially, is some identifiable clothing back,
as depicted as worn by the offenders in CCTV.
We've got a number of mobile phones and SIM cards back.
We've got a number of items,
documentation that show that these people are known to each other.
We'll look through those exhibits. We'll see whether they impact
on the case immediately that we present to the CPS and essentially, look to enhance
our evidential case for conspiracy against these guys.
You need to go to your right a little bit
Just sit up very slightly for me. Hold it there.
-The two arrested men
are quickly processed by having their fingerprints
and photographs taken.
OK, lift off, mate.
Get both thumbs on there like so.
To help in gaining further evidence,
the police have also taken impressions of their trainers.
He was obviously quite annoyed
that we were taking impressions of his shoes
and obviously that could be something
that could be quite important to the investigation.
He may have left the impressions of his trainers there,
that can be identified back to him.
-OK. Someone will be down shortly.
-Yeah, that's all right.
It's a good result for the officers of Operation Crevice. Two men are locked up
and they've got a huge amount of evidence they hope will identify the men on CCTV
and help them find the other two gang members.
These guys do lead quite a nomadic lifestyle
and they do spend a fair bit of time in hotels, which are paid for by proceeds of crime
and getting two out of the four is a good result
and the two that we did get are probably our primary players.
So, I'm very happy with the result so far.
The Earl of Chichester is a hereditary title passed down for over 350 years.
The present Earl, Lord John Chichester,
lives at Little Durnford Manor in Wiltshire.
Lord Chichester has a fascinating family lineage.
His ancestors travelled the world,
collecting rare antiques wherever they went.
My grandmother was Argentinian
and her father had emigrated to Argentina from Germany about 1850
and they were collectors, they collected French furniture,
most of which had been sold, Renaissance art, paintings...
Over the years, Lord Chichester's grandparents
amassed a hugely valuable collection of porcelain and ornaments,
including a series of 18th-century gold snuff boxes, worth over £20,000 each.
These became Lord Chichester's favourite pieces in the collection
when he became their official custodian on behalf of the family.
I love them.
I really do.
And some are very special and are definitely museum pieces.
The precious heirlooms were kept safely at Durnford Manor for over 40 years.
But then one summer's evening in 2002, a shocking event took place.
I had just left for London
and my wife had taken a friend of hers back to Salisbury
and this break-in happened.
With both the Earl and his wife out,
a powerful 4x4 vehicle reversed through the back gates
of Durnford Manor and up to the house.
Intruders then smashed their way inside.
The alarm went off, straight away,
but they were very, very quick.
Ignoring the alarm,
the gang left a trail of destruction in their wake,
ransacking the house
and targeting the most valuable antiques they could find.
They got out with over 30 items of porcelain.
Some they left smashed on the ground.
Most upsettingly, the 300-year-old gold snuff boxes were stolen.
Within a very few minutes with the alarms ringing, they were gone.
In total, the burglars had stolen
possessions to the value of £1 million
and had stripped Lord Chichester of a family legacy
dating back generations.
For the Earl, the loss of the antiques
wasn't his first concern, rather the threat the gang could have posed to his family
-if they'd been at home.
-I kept thinking somebody
could've been in the house. They could've hurt or injured someone.
I felt I should have done more,
maybe we should have closed all the shutters.
But the alarm was set, the alarm was on.
As soon as they smashed the window, the alarm went off.
I don't know really what else one can do.
Wiltshire Police immediately launched a major investigation
to catch the gang responsible.
Among the officers at the scene was Detective Sgt Nigel Porter.
At the time, this was the biggest robbery we'd had in Wiltshire,
in fact in the region.
It was taken to be a very serious offence,
the amount of violence that was used towards property.
As the investigation got under way,
it soon became clear this was the work of an organised criminal gang.
The thieves had been careful
not to leave any forensic evidence at the scene.
With forensics drawing a blank,
the officers had to rely on more old-fashioned police methods.
The first few hours of investigation into a burglary,
of any magnitude, is extremely important,
to gather evidence and at that point, we made a strategic decision
to do house-to-house enquiries as far as we could.
We were, in a sense, doing village-to-village enquiries.
We walked for miles.
The window of opportunity
to recover the stolen items was likely to be small.
But later that afternoon, the police made a remarkable breakthrough
when they knocked on the door of a local woman.
We were amazed to find that she had, in fact,
walked through Lord Chichester's property
and she'd seen a vehicle with some males
and that she was unhappy with and she recorded their registration.
The woman's quick thinking
had provided an excellent first lead for the team to follow.
As a result of that, we then, with the use
of the police national computer,
were able to identify the owner,
which led us to identify, physically identify,
members of this organised crime group from Cheltenham,
which was well known throughout the country
to commit this type of offence.
The car's registration
had provided a strong clue to the identity of the gang responsible.
It seems this would be the defining moment of the investigation.
But despite arresting a suspect linked to the car,
without hard evidence,
the police were unable to bring a case
against any of the suspected gang members.
For Lord Chichester,
it seemed all hope of recovering his precious heirlooms was lost.
However, DS Porter and his team
remained determined to reunite Lord Chichester with the stolen antiques.
We then continued with our efforts to recover some of the property
and then hopefully, get evidence of that property
being in the possession of another suspect.
The organised crime group we had identified,
we know that they're well-practised at this type of offence
and also, they've got a chain
which they can distribute the property to once they have taken it.
Stolen antiques can be transported anywhere in the world.
The officers knew they would need to act quickly
to prevent Lord Chichester's heirlooms disappearing without a trace.
Their first step was to add the missing items to the Art Loss Register,
the world's largest database of lost and stolen antiques.
This register has helped recover
over £160 million worth of stolen items,
since it was set up in 1991.
With the Earl's collection on the register, the police knew if anyone tried to sell the items on
through a legitimate dealer,
they would be able to intercept the sale.
All they and Lord Chichester could do was wait and hope.
After several weeks with no news,
DS Porter got the call he was waiting for.
We were notified that some snuff boxes were, in fact,
being put through to be checked by a reputable silver dealer.
Wasting no time,
DS Porter drove directly to the dealer's home in High Holborn,
to identify the four snuff boxes.
Using pictures provided by the Earl,
he was able to confirm they were indeed his stolen antiques.
We were very excited when we got the snuff boxes.
In a career, it's very rare
that we manage to recover items of that value.
The dealer was able to pass on to the police
the name of the man who had sold the snuff boxes to him.
As officers swooped to arrest this man,
DS Porter wanted to break the good news to Lord Chichester himself.
We drove directly to his home and gave them back to him
and he was elated.
I am extremely grateful to DS Porter.
I think he has done an absolutely terrific job.
I cannot praise their persistence too highly.
I am extremely grateful and it's wonderful to have these boxes back.
Well done the police.
On a busy estate in the Essex town of Southend,
PC Chris Martin is answering a call to a suspected burglary.
We've had a very brief call
from some guy who's saying that his wife's just phoned him
saying that everything's gone from the house.
In Britain, there are nearly three-quarters of a million burglaries every year.
Most of these happen to homes where thieves gain access
through ground-floor windows or the back of the premises.
So, when the police get a call to a sixth floor flat,
it's considered highly unusual.
Basically, in a high-rise block of flats,
burglaries are rare in those places
because it's obviously difficult to get into.
The front door being the only real access point.
Hello, PC Martin from Southend. Talk to me about what's happened.
-I've only been out a couple of hours.
-When I came back,
the drawers had all been pulled out.
It was owner Loretta McDonald who made the shocking discovery
that her home had been broken into.
-Obviously that's the only way they've come in.
-Yeah, but I don't lock it. That's the thing.
Why don't you lock your front door?
I didn't think they were that easy to get into.
While PC Martin waits for the scenes of crime officer to arrive,
Loretta shows him where the items have been stolen from, but she's convinced the thieves
saw her coming home and ran away.
-What's gone?. Talk me through what's gone.
-Where was that?
-All my drawers were all pulled out.
-The drawers in there were all pulled out.
-How much was in the money box?
-There was only £30, it was my baby's little money box.
-OK, where was that?
-It was on here
and my partner had some money in the drawer and that's gone. Just the cash.
I think they were going to try and come back and get that as well.
-They have seen you and scarpered, haven't they?
-Yeah. Just as well.
-So this is your room? And this was out?
-The drawers were all out, yeah.
-I put the other drawers back, but I shouldn't have.
-Don't touch too much.
-Is it your husband that phoned us?
-He lives with me.
She hasn't lifted the handle up on the front door to lock it,
so very easily opened with a screwdriver, albeit no marks.
The stuff's lined up down there,
so there's a couple of people looking out the window,
they've recognised her go out, know where she lives,
come in quickly, seen her come back and they've got away with half of what they planned to take,
which is a blessing in disguise, perhaps.
I'm most upset about the money box.
I think that's the lowest of the low, doing things like that.
As Loretta is about to give her statement,
her partner Nick Cook arrives back home in a state of high anxiety.
-Hello, are you all right?
-I was the one who called you.
-Yeah, I've just started taking the statement. Did you run?
I'm not going to feel safe in here now.
-I've only been out about
-an hour. Ten o'clock.
I've only been about an hour, haven't I?
Oh, God. They must have seen you coming back.
-Yeah, I know.
-Or else they'd have taken the
Nick's anger increases
when he starts to check where thieves have been.
I was in too much of a shock,
now I realise his money box has gone
and I thought, oh no.
Have you put the drawers back in?
-The jewellery box was in that
-Apart from the jewellery box,
Nick becomes livid
when he sees that his money has been stolen from one of the drawers.
-I left my money in that
-second drawer this morning.
My money was right there,
-on the corner of that
-I knew not to leave it there! I normally hide it.
-Were these out?
-Why have they gone back in?
They said don't touch 'em.
I know, but I just don't like it all like that.
The trauma of having their home broken into
-suddenly replaces the anger.
-It's all right,
they're only possessions, aren't they?
They've not hurt anyone. It's all right. It's all right.
-It's my kid's
-That's what's upset me so much!
It looks like before the thieves were interrupted,
they had stacked more of the couple's possessions in the hallway.
This only increases Nick's anger and frustration.
-I'll move that.
-No! I didn't want you to touch it! BLEEP.
I didn't want you to touch it, because if there's any fingerprints...
-I don't want people walking by and kicking my table, thanks.
PC Martin is convinced that the burglars were watching out
for Loretta to come home from the flat's balcony.
What's the view like there, because they had a lookout, haven't they?
-Which way did you come in?
-I came up Philpott.
They've seen you walking up. Through there.
It's just that feeling. Someone rooting around in your house.
-They only took the
-And your money.
-Anything they could get their hands on.
What did your son's money box look like?
-Orange and blue.
-How much did it have in it?
For Nick, it's stealing from his child that's causing him the most anger and distress.
-That's low, isn't it?
You blatantly know that's a kid's room.
You blatantly know that's a kid's money box.
To make matters worse,
the £120 stolen from the bedroom,
was all the money Nick had.
-I've just got made redundant, so I'm
I normally hide it in my coat pocket or somewhere.
The scenes of crime officer has arrived
and after examining the door,
agrees with PC Martin
how the thieves broke in.
They have literally put a screwdriver in and moved it like that until they get this bit.
You can see with the screwdriver,
they've just made no damage here whatsoever.
Although no consolation to Nick and Loretta,
the break-in to a sixth floor flat
is a first to an experienced officer like PC Martin.
This is probably the first one I've ever been to
in a high-rise that's a genuine burglary.
We get people ringing up, trying to get a crisis loan and all that sort of stuff, yeah.
I'm not going to feel very safe in here now.
Seeing how scared Loretta is about staying in the flat on her own
has brought Nick's anger back.
They could come back now.
-Let them come back. I'll kick the
-out of 'em.
I'm scared in case they try to get in when I'm in.
PC Martin has done all he can, so leaves to start working
-on tracking down the thieves and stolen property.
-Someone's stolen a money box
from a five-month-old baby... I mean, how low can you go?
You have to be some sort of scumbag to do that.
I can understand his anger,
but also he's come home and his partner's in floods of tears
and he's in a hard place at the moment, lost his job recently.
It's not fair - everything that he's got has just been taken.
Despite conducting forensic tests on Loretta and Nick's flat,
no suspects or stolen goods have been found.
But in the case of Lord Chichester's stolen antiques,
the man caught selling the gold snuff boxes was convicted
of handling stolen goods
and received a two-year suspended sentence.
Lord Chichester has since improved the security at his home.
DS Porter and his team
are still working to try and track down
the missing pieces of his collection.
A few days after the Hertfordshire Police raids
on the gang who targeted leisure centres,
officers found and arrested the two remaining members of the gang.
All four men were charged with conspiracy to burgle
and pleaded guilty.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
In this episode, a set of stolen antique snuff boxes worth thousands of pounds are tracked down and returned to their rightful owner; a young mother returns home to find burglars have ransacked her flat and taken her baby's money box; and police carry out co-ordinated raids to arrest members of a teenage gang suspected of theft.