Auction of burglar's loot

A TREASURE trove of stolen goods from a career criminal's crime spree is being auctioned off by Suffolk Constabulary.

Colin Adwent

A TREASURE trove of stolen goods from a career criminal's crime spree is being auctioned off by Suffolk Constabulary.

More than 200 lots went under the hammer this week, , but they are only part of the haul stolen by one-man crimewave, Michael Thwaites.

The county's police have commissioned auctioneers Clowes and Nash to schedule further auctions for the remaining 200 lots after failing to trace the owners.

Although the majority of the goods are of relatively low value it is believed selling off the estimated 1,000 to 1,200 items could net up to �15,000.

Thwaites was sentenced to eight years in prison at Chelmsford Crown Court in September 2005, after being caught returning to his Suffolk home.

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He was convicted of seven burglaries in 2004 in Woodbridge, Saxmundham, Halesworth, Kessingland, and three others in Norfolk.

Thwaites, who began burgling in 1968 when aged just 13, was also convicted of an attempted burglary in Lowestoft.

At his sentencing Judge David Goodin said Thwaites had previously appeared before courts in Maidstone, Rochester, Guildford, Canterbury and Croydon.

Judge Goodin described the then 50-year-old as a “career burglar” and “prolific and determined”.

More than 100 lots of jewellery and in excess of 60 collectable figures were offered to the highest bidders at the auction in Swardeston, Norfolk, this week. There were also electrical items and other goods up for grabs.

The 203 lots were part of the haul seized from Thwaites' home in St John's Street, Lowestoft, and his second-hand shop in the town's London Road South.

All of the items were purchased and bargain hunters said they had no qualms about snapping up stolen goods.

A spokesman for Suffolk Constabulary said the exact amount of money raised would not be known until further auctions had taken place.

Police said 50% of the money made will go to central government. The other half is to be split between the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts.

Barry Martin, proprietor of Norfolk-based Clowes and Nash, said: “It was very busy - all the auctions we do for the police are well attended. I think people like the drama a little bit.”

Bargain-hunter Mark Cooper, 40, of Eaton, said: “I don't mind that it's stuff that's been received by the police - it's all right as long as they don't spend the money on speed cameras.”

The spokesman for Suffolk police said: “The auction is happening in Norfolk quite simply because that company was chosen by our financial investigation unit for practical reasons, not least because the property was held in storage at Lowestoft.

“We sell goods in our possession at the direction of the court, to satisfy confiscation orders.”

AN observant member of the public and good police work led to Michael Thwaites being caught.

A special operation, codenamed Keel, was set up by Suffolk police to catch the thief behind an alarming number of house burglaries in region.

Between the autumn of 2003 and the summer of 2004 there were more than 70 burglaries across an area stretching from Woodbridge to Cromer.

In January 2004 officers were carrying out an undercover operation at a housing estate in Beccles when a motorcycle was seen and the same bike was later observed at the second-hand shop own by Thwaites in London Road South, Lowestoft.

The burglar would often visit car boot sales and buy items for the shop. The public would also offer him goods to sell so police needed more evidence to charge him with the burglaries they suspected he was committing.

The big breakthrough came on July 13, 2004, when a member of the public reported a man on a motorcycle acting suspiciously in Halesworth.

Police dashed to the location but the rider had left the area.

However, there had been a house burglary and other officers laid in wait for Thwaites to return to his shop or his home.

When the 50-year-old arrived at his house in St John's Road he was found to have items which had been stolen from the property in Halesworth.

After his arrest, other property stolen from a number of burglaries that were being investigated were recovered.