Police hunt burglary gang after linking 80 break-ins in Suffolk and south Norfolk

The aftermath of the Barrow burglary

The aftermath of the Barrow burglary - Credit: Archant

Detectives believe they are hunting a burglary gang targeting homes and jewellery after linking 80 break-ins in five months across Suffolk and south Norfolk.

A senior officer on the case has said Suffolk, which has had 68 of the burglaries, is working with other forces, and his team think the crimewave could be linked to a similar spree in Devon and Cornwall.

Those responsible are not thought to come from the Suffolk area.

Detective Inspector Nick Power said: “We are working with our regional partners, and Devon and Cornwall Police which has had a similar spate of offences.

“We don’t think the people involved are from the local area, although we can’t rule out that there might be two or three groups, but everything is pointing towards a group of individuals we are looking at.

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“We are hoping to make some progress in relation to what we are doing with other forces to collect evidence, and to make arrests in relation to certain individuals.”

Operation Domain was launched by Suffolk Constabulary in response to the break-ins dating back to November.

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They burglaries have mainly taken place in the Babergh and Mid Suffolk districts, with St Edmundsbury and Suffolk Coastal the other areas worst hit.

They are being linked due to the similarities in their nature and forensic evidence obtained from the crime scenes.

Typical features are that they occur in rural areas, usually in the afternoon or early evening, involve forced entry to a property and jewellery being the main target.

Officers have now launched a ‘See it, Hear it, Report it’ campaign and are appealing for communities to be on the look-out for any suspicious behaviour in their villages.

This includes people and vehicles that appear unusual or out of place.

A retired couple from Barrow, whose property was burgled, have spoken of their trauma.

They did not want to be identified but said: “On one day in January we left our home in the morning with all doors and windows closed and locked, the side gates bolted and the garage locked.

“On returning home in the afternoon, the front of the house appeared as normal, but a huge shock awaited. We found that the French doors to the lounge had been forced open and the bolts broken. We went upstairs and stood looking in utter disbelief for a minute or two and then dialled 999.

“We saw the drawers in our bedroom had been pulled out and the contents strewn over the bed and floor. Likewise wardrobe doors were open and the contents thrown down. The other bedrooms had also been searched and wardrobe doors and drawers opened.

“In our bedroom small jewellery boxes containing earrings and chains had been emptied, then thrown down. Some costume jewellery had been discarded and thrown down too.

“Several missing items were particularly upsetting being of sentimental value. One was my wife’s gold chain, the last major gift of her late mother some thirty years ago and also there were earrings and brooch presents from my late sister.

“Intruders had apparently climbed over a neighbouring fence to the rear of our property.

“We went to the spare bedroom and used the room for a week before we could bring ourselves to go back to our room. We felt we did not wish to use our bed cover again even if it were washed and therefore purchased a new one.

“Despite the fact that everywhere was locked we find ourselves checking and rechecking before leaving the house.

“We still find ourselves constantly watching for any sign of disturbance when we come in. Worst of all is the sense of the invasion of privacy.”

A majority of what detectives have described as “an alarming amount of burglaries” have involved secured homes being entered by force.

Officers are now asking for the community’s help and have set up a campaign they hope will bear fruit.

The ‘See it, Hear it, Report it’ campaign places an extra emphasis on the importance of community intelligence in providing crucial leads to apprehend the offenders.

Neighbourhood Watch schemes are a vital element of the local intelligence picture, and residents are encouraged to join their local scheme if one exists, or set one up if their village or community does not have one.

Members of the public can also sign-up to the Police Connect messaging service, which will provide them with direct updates by phone or email about crime in their area.

Detective Inspector Nick Power, of Bury St Edmunds CID and who is leading Operation Domain, said: “This is an alarming amount of burglaries, causing misery and distress to a vast number of individuals and families across Suffolk and also into Norfolk.

“We gather forensic evidence at every crime scene and have several lines of enquiry that we are pursuing in relation to these burglaries, but the vital key to catching these criminals could be provided by a member of the public calling us with information about something they have seen and believe to be suspicious.

“My direct appeal to local communities is to not just ignore something you see or hear that seems out of place.

“This could include a suspicious vehicle outside your neighbour’s house or hearing the sound of glass smashing nearby.

“Note down the car registration number or description of any suspicious persons you may have seen and report it to us if you believe it to be unusual.

“These criminals may present themselves as genuine callers, so if their behaviour seems odd then let us know.

“I would also urge people to get involved with Neighbourhood Watch as this is a vital resource for preventing crime and helps to foster community relations.

“The mere presence of Neighbourhood Watch signs are known to act as a deterrent to criminals, as they are a strong warning that they are entering an area where people look out for one another.”

Further information can be found on the Suffolk Constabulary website www.suffolk.police.uk

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