As families ate together in restaurants, tracking devices were attached to their cars

While families sat together at a restaurant to eat, a gang of unscrupulous burglars silently attached trackers to their cars.

A “sophisticated, carefully planned and executed conspiracy” saw tens of thousands of pounds worth of jewellery and cash stolen from homes on the outskirts of Liverpool. Six homes were targeted in September and October last year.

The masterminds behind the brutal plot are said to have lingered outside Merseyside eateries as they select their next victims. Today (5 July) a court heard how they deliberately targeted members of the Asian community, who had “a reputation for keeping large amounts of cash and valuable jewellery in their homes”.

When police confronted Stuart Devany, he denied involvement and said: “I don’t do burglaries”. When he was sentenced, the 59-year-old launched into a 16-word tirade from the dock at Liverpool Crown Court.

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Devany, from Chorley’s Lane in Widnes, and his accomplices are said to have identified their victims by attaching trackers to the vehicles of restaurant, takeaway and shop owners, enabling them to obtain their home addresses.

Once inside, prosecutor Philip Astbury detailed how the gang members “ignored” valuables such as iPads, iPhones and televisions and instead focused on the loot they wanted to make. They had already found a “regular market” for their stolen jewellery in the Doncaster area.

The first series of burglaries began on September 19, 2023, starting with a house on Muirfield Road in Huyton, Merseyside. The thieves entered through the back door at around 2.30pm, the Liverpool Echo reports.

Shortly afterwards, the homeowner returned to find that £3,750 in cash and gold jewellery worth over £6,000 had been stolen.

The criminals then went to a property in the Wavertree area of ​​Queens Drive, arriving just before 2.45pm. Three men dressed in dark clothing and with their faces covered were caught on CCTV climbing over a side wall and breaking in through the kitchen window.

The couple and their two children arrived home at around 11pm to find their house covered in muddy footprints and £5,900 in cash missing, including several hundred pounds worth of their son’s birthday present.

To cap off their crime spree, the perpetrators targeted a house on Greenhill Road in Allerton at around 4pm. They smashed a patio window to gain entry and made off with £5,300 in cash stashed in the bedrooms and £25,000 worth of gold jewellery.

Three more raids took place on 5 October. At around 8.30pm, four men were spotted entering the back garden of a house on Isleham Close in Allerton. The residents were out with their families when neighbours told them their burglar alarm had gone off. When they got home, they found a window at the back of the property had been smashed open.

The intruders had left coffee all over the kitchen and taken £300 in cash. However, the homeowners “did not keep expensive jewellery or large amounts of cash” in the property, resulting in a relatively small haul for the burglars this time around.

Undeterred, the crooks moved to a property on Lyndhurst Avenue in Mossley Hill. The resident had gone to bed about half an hour earlier, but heard banging on her bedroom window.

She then discovered a masked man in dark clothing standing at the top of a ladder outside her window.

Eventually, the burglars attempted to break into a house on Redwing Way in Halewood, where a 16-year-old boy was home alone with his younger sister. The teenager heard noises in their back garden and saw two figures dressed in black.

Eventually, they left without taking anything after seeing the boy inside.

A “careful investigation” led to officers combing through hours of CCTV footage, which revealed that a Vauxhall Vivaro van was used to transport the offenders between crime scenes. It later emerged that this vehicle had been stolen during a previous burglary on August 2 and was being driven with false number plates.

The van was parked on Guest Street in Widnes after the first wave of burglaries, while Devany was caught on camera at a petrol station on Warrington Road in the Cheshire city, filling up the van and buying a can of soft drink just before the second wave of crimes. The getaway vehicle was later found in the Rochdale area at around 10.30pm that day – which Astbury said “probably meant after the two perilous escapes” the burglars “needed to distance themselves and the van”.

Around the same time, the suspect was seen on CCTV footage at a nearby Tesco Express store.

Devany’s DNA was found on the steering wheel and gear stick, as well as on an empty Red Bull can in the van. Devany was arrested at his home on February 29 of this year.

During questioning, the suspect insisted to detectives: “I don’t do burglaries”, but then claimed he had been “used as a slave” and pointed the finger at a man from the travelling community, claiming he had once cleaned a van for him in exchange for methadone. He later revealed more about the criminal activities, explaining that the gang operated with five or six members and “targeted members of the Pakistani and Chinese communities”, using tracking devices placed on their cars while they were outside their businesses.

Devany also described how the group preferred to use walkie talkies rather than mobile phones to communicate and how they “disposed” of stolen jewellery via connections in South Yorkshire. When presented with CCTV evidence, he admitted being at the petrol station and in Rochdale with the van, and confessed to burning his own clothes and those of his accomplices.

His extensive criminal history includes 51 previous convictions for 119 offences since 1985, including numerous counts of burglary. Defending, Olivia Beesley addressed the court, saying: “Mr Devany has a difficult background.”

She spoke about the tragic events of his past, saying: “When he was only 17, he lost a child. His partner committed suicide by jumping off Runcorn Bridge.”

Beesley continued, emphasizing the impact of these events on Devany’s life: “He tells me his life went downhill after that. He was offered heroin and became addicted very quickly.”

She concluded by linking his criminal behavior to his substance abuse problems: “A large portion of his crimes involve dishonesty and theft, which go hand in hand with a battle with addiction. There is a gap in his crimes.

“He tells me that he went into roofing and that he liked the job, but that he fell back into crime. He tells me that he is getting too old for this lifestyle now. He has put his time in prison to good use. He is learning to read and write for the first time and he is proud of it.

“He tells me he enjoys his work in custody. This is the first time he has enjoyed his work since his work in landscaping.”

“He hopes that your honor sees that there is some remorse. He does notice the suffering that he has caused.”

Devany admitted assisting in a burglary. Dressed in a blue Nike shirt, he was sentenced to six years and five months in prison. In his sentence, Judge Robert Trevor-Jones said: “You were an integral member of what was, by any standard, a highly organised gang who carried out a series of burglaries in a professional and clinical manner. The offences were well planned.”

“You initially targeted members of the Asian community, believing they would have large amounts of valuable jewelry and cash. You monitored local restaurants and shops and then placed tracking devices on their vehicles.”

“Once you got inside, you caused extensive damage — in some cases, you even looted them. I’m not going to lecture you about the potential impact burglaries have on homeowners.”

“I have no doubt that other judges have done that in the past, and it clearly made little difference. In some cases the occupiers were present and were disturbed by the presence of the gang.”

“Among them was a 16-year-old child who was confronted with the image of intruders dressed entirely in black. How utterly terrifying.”

As he was led to the cells, Devany said: “How on earth do the travellers get away with it? That’s your job, not mine. F***s sake.”

Following the sentencing, Detective Inspector Kevin O’Rourke, Merseyside Police, said: “Devany was a particularly callous burglar who specifically targeted the homes of individuals and families he suspected of having high value jewellery. We quickly identified a van used in all six burglaries and following CCTV and DNA testing we were able to uncover the evidence that has now put Devany behind bars.”

“These burglaries had a huge impact on the victims and it is good to see that Devany now has time to reflect on his actions in prison. Burglary is a very personal crime and stealing jewellery that has huge sentimental value can be painful for victims.”

“It is rare for members of the Asian community to be targeted in this way, but some burglars take advantage of cultural traditions and attempt to steal a family’s gold. If you keep valuable jewelry or large amounts of cash in your home, take steps to secure it.”

“Just trying to hide jewelry or money isn’t enough, no matter how well you think you’ve hidden it. A determined burglar will search everywhere for your precious possessions.”

“Ideally, you should remove all gold and jewelry from your home and store these items in a safe. If you prefer to store gold and jewelry at home, purchase a high-quality safe that meets insurance standards and is securely attached to a wall or floor.”

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