A PROLIFIC gang of burglars from Portsmouth who between them have more than 80 convictions are behind bars.
Twins Gary and George Baldacchino, along with friends Louis Mitchell, Daniel Hewett and Louis Cranston, went on a three-week spree of raids across the city.
They struck at five different businesses, stealing thousands of pounds of goods and leaving behind a trail of destruction in their wake.
But a judge at Portsmouth Crown Court has now jailed the gang for a total of more than 10 years.
Prosecutor Thomas Wilkins described the operation as ‘sophisticated’.
He said: ‘There was clearly a significant degree of planning by a group of people who had gone equipped and with a purpose.’
During the gang’s sentencing he told the court that the raiders would use audacious methods to gain access to some of the properties, including disabling alarm systems, smashing CCTV cameras and, on one occasion, even going as far as to cut a hole into the roof of one of the properties
The first burglary took place in the early hours of May 5, 2014, at The Range, in Portfield Road, Copnor.
Mr Wilkins said: ‘Entry was forced by a fire escape door.
‘After cutting cables to an alarm they went to a cash office where they caused considerable damage to the door.
‘Once inside efforts were made to steal two safes. These attempts failed.’
Mr Wilkins added that when the gang failed to break into the safes, they fled the store, stealing £10,000 of mobile phones and smashing CCTV cameras.
The next attack was days later, on May 9, when the gang targeted two premises, the WHSmith shop in Palmerston Road, Southsea, and the Spar shop in St Mary’s Road, Kingston.
Both raids proved fruitless, however, the group did cause damage to the sites, with alarms being smashed at WHSmith in a bid to cover up the crime.
Mr Wilkins added that there was also ‘significant damage’ caused to the Spar.
The final raids were on May 27, with the gang once again striking at two sites in the same night – the Cosham Express Newsagents in High Street, Cosham, and the Hovertravel base in Southsea.
In Cosham, raiders cut a 6ft by 4ft hole in the roof to enter it.
They ransacked the store, stealing £3,000 in cash, a laptop and a number of cigarettes, worth around £7,000.
They then attacked Hovertravel, using pick axes to smash windows and causing significant damage of about £11,000 to the site.
Four of the gang members pleaded guilty to the raids, while Louis Mitchell was found guilty of his part in the conspiracy following an earlier trial.
Rounding off his summary, Mr Wilkins read out all the gang’s previous offences and convictions – many of them for theft, burglary and dishonesty.
Despite pleas from all the defendant’s barristers appealing for suspended sentences to be given, Judge Claudia Ackner said she ‘had no choice but to impose immediate sentences’ of imprisonment on all the gang members.
She was not convinced by the gang members’ claims that they did not want to re-offend and that they had changed.
Mitchell, 29, of Fort Cumberland Road, Eastney, was jailed for the longest term, receiving a total of three years for his role in the raids.
Gary Baldacchino, 30, of Bishop Street, Portsea, George Baldacchino, 30, of Plymouth Street, Somers Town and Cranston, 30, of Shearer Road, Buckland, were all jailed for a total of two years.
Hewett, 31, of Clive Road Kingston, received the shortest sentence of just 20 months.
He had no previous convictions for burglary offences.