Jail For Leeds Car Burglary Gang Who Bragged On Social Media.
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
A gang of burglars who targeted expensive cars across Leeds have been brought to justice after they bragged about their criminal exploits on social media.
Specialist officers from Leeds District Crime Team painstakingly built up a comprehensive picture of evidence, including material from social media, as they investigated a series of burglaries involving the theft of cars worth in excess of half a million pounds.
One of the group, 21-year-old Frankie Allwork, from Seacroft, posed in front of a stolen £60,000 Audi A6 while holding a pair of mole grip pliers, which are used to break into homes to steal car keys.
The image was sent to a notorious West Midlands-based social media account called Mr Dingers – ‘dingers’ being slang for stolen cars - where offenders anonymously show off about their crimes and revel in the number of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ they receive.
Allwork’s face was obscured with an emoji when the picture appeared online, but officers found the original unedited image of him with the identifiable stolen vehicle when they seized one of his accomplice’s phones.
A video had also been posted on the Mr Dingers account showing the suspects, driving along to music in the Audi, which had been stolen in a burglary in Red Hall Lane, Shadwell, on January 7 this year, again with them showing off a pair of mole grip pliers.
The original video, which received 33,000 views, was also recovered on one of the mobile phones seized by officers.
The Audi and a £30,000 Seat Leon FR, which had been stolen in a burglary the same night in Oulton Lane, Woodlesford, were also photographed by the gang parked side by side in Gipton – at a spot where tracking devices from other stolen cars had previously been found discarded.
Phone evidence showed Allwork had exchanged messages via social media with accomplice Bryn Kerry with them talking openly about stolen vehicles and the tools used to commit burglaries.
The wider investigation focused on the theft of vehicles worth more than £568,000, which included a spike in offences targeting homes in the Rothwell and Woodlesford areas between June and December last year.
Allwork was linked to one of those burglaries after his DNA was found on a cigarette butt.
On December 19 last year, a £40,000 Mercedes, a £30,000 BMW and a motorbike, worth £4,000, were stolen in a burglary at a house in Churchfield Road, Rothwell.
When officers checked for CCTV in the area, they found footage showing the offenders arriving nearby in a car.
One of the group was seen to flick a lit cigarette which landed on a garden hedge.
The cigarette was recovered from the scene by officers and forensic analysis showed Allwork’s DNA profile.
In interview, he claimed to have been at home all night and refused to accept it was his DNA but later pleaded guilty to the offence in court.
CCTV footage had also shown the offenders rifling through a handbag and purse stolen in the burglary before throwing it into the same hedge.
Allwork also admitted his involvement in a burglary on January 16 this year where a £100,000 Mercedes E63 was stolen in a burglary in The Avenue, Scholes.
The car was pursued by officers and drove on the wrong side of the road towards oncoming traffic without lights at speeds of up to 120mph. The police helicopter was involved in a search of the area after the car was abandoned and Allwork was found hiding nearby.
Other enquiries by the investigating officers brought additional evidence that resulted in a number of individual burglary and other charges being made against the group.
James Holroyd, aged 20, of Halton Moor Road, Leeds, pleaded guilty to a burglary in Ashwood, Whinmoor, in January this year, where a £40,000 Land Rover Discovery and a £30,000 Ford Ranger were stolen from the driveway. He bragged to his associates over social media less than an hour later, describing other vehicles that he had left behind.
Bryn Kerry, aged 20, of Ingelwood Drive, Seacroft, pleaded guilty to the theft of a Seat Leon that was stolen from a New Year’s Eve house party in Coldwell Road, Crossgates, on January 1 this year. He texted Holroyd who met up with him and who later admitted handling stolen goods in relation to the offence.
Kerry was also convicted of an attempted burglary in Hazel Road, Whinmoor, where he was captured on a doorbell camera trying the door handle. He also admitted handling stolen goods over an iPhone found at his mother’s address after it was linked to a burglary in Mayfield Avenue, Crossgsates in December last year. A £40,000 BMW and £100,000 of jewellery and electrical items were taken in the break-in.
Joel Cheetham, aged 18, of Oak Tree Grove, Gipton, was convicted of a burglary in Ring Road, Crossgates, in December 2018, where a Ford Fiesta was stolen. Enquiries showed he had booked a taxi to take him and his associates to a fast food restaurant in Oakwood where a card stolen in the offence was used to buy food.
Cheetham also pleaded guilty to five counts of handling stolen goods in relation to cars stolen in burglaries in Woodlesford, Swarcliffe and Oulton after officers found pictures of the vehicles on his phone and incriminating posts on his social media. This included the Audi A6 that Allwork had posed in front of with mole grip pliers and the Seat Leon FR stolen the same night.
While on court bail for these offences in August, Cheetham was identified from images on social media riding a stolen motorcycle in Harehills after it was taken from a takeaway driver in Gipton. When he was arrested, officers found the distinctive red balaclava that he had worn. He pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods and driving offences.
Allwork, of Kentmere Avenue, Seacroft, was jailed for four years and six months; Holroyd was sentenced to 34 months imprisonment; and Kerry was jailed for 32 months. Cheetham is due to be sentenced next month.
Acting Detective Inspector Naeem Khan, who heads Leeds District Crime Team, said: “These offenders each played a part in a very significant series of burglaries where people’s homes were targeted to steal their high-value cars while they slept.
“The victims suffered not just the material losses of property that they had worked hard to own legitimately, but also the indignity of having their homes invaded and the lasting feelings of insecurity that so often go along with that.
“It is clear from the way they bragged about their offences on social media, that these offenders had absolute contempt for their victims and did not care about the harm they were causing.
“Specialist officers carried out a thorough and comprehensive investigation that was able to clearly link each of them to the crimes that they have been convicted of.
“Their use of social media to show off about what they were doing also provided us with very useful additional evidence.
“We hope the sentences they have received will serve to reassure their victims and the wider community and also send a message to others who think they can commit offences likes this without having to face the consequences.”