TWO travellers who went on a crime spree stealing an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of tools from tradesmen’s vans have each been jailed for five years.
Terry Stokes and Steven Ward were sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court yesterday.
They had both admitted a conspiracy charge involving 49 offences of stealing from motor vehicles across the area.
Their crimes netted the pair tools worth more than £104,000.
Addressing the men, Judge Sarah Munro QC, sentencing, said: ‘Your motivation was pure greed.
‘You gave no thought to the impact on the losers who were all hardworking men who had spent years building up their businesses and suffered financially and emotionally by what you did.’
The court heard the men used a blue Ford Focus with fake number plates and parked next to a van they wished to target.
After breaking in, they would drive away and transfer the stolen tools to a Ford Transit van parked elsewhere.
The tools would then be transferred again to a Vauxhall Movano which was parked in Jersey Close, Southampton.
The goods would then be resold for profit.
The Transit van was not linked to the men’s crimes because it was never seen near any vans which were broken into.
The number plates on the Focus would be changed to help disguise it.
The court heard that after finding the Movano, police described it as ‘an Aladdin’s cave, loaded with stolen goods’.
The pair were arrested when police officers saw Ward and Terry Stokes acting suspiciously in the Transit van in Havant on February 7 last year.
Police searched the van and found a stash of stolen tools.
They also discovered lockpicks, number plates and double-sided sticky tape for fixing the plates to the Ford Focus.
Ward, 22 of Oaktree Caravan Site, Salisbury, and Stokes, 27, of Lewes in Sussex, both have long histories of thefts and within two weeks of being charged last year, they were out stealing again, using another van borrowed from a fellow traveller.
The court heard that after his arrest Ward told police his name was Amon Ward and had a fake ID showing his alias.
It was only after he was quizzed about his distinctive tattoos, which were known to police from previous convictions, that he finally admitted who he was.
Judge Munro said: ‘That reaction by you and the lying to the police officers are significant aggravating factors in this case.
‘You are both forensically and evidentially linked to both those vehicles.
‘You are in my view equally culpable.
‘This was a highly sophisticated conspiracy and despite police involvement did not stop you from offending.
‘All of your pleas on behalf of your respective wives must fall on deaf ears in regards to these offences.’
The men were linked the other thefts by the recovery of recovery of stolen items and the records of mobile phone signals, which put them in the vicinity of further crimes.