SIX members of a Romanian crime gang have been jailed for a total of 47 years for plotting to commit burglaries at jewellers in nine counties including the New Year's Eve raid on Goldsmiths in Oxford.

Staffordshire Police said members of the gang 'set up camp and cycled' to jewellers across England in a series of burglaries in which property worth more than £3.1m was stolen.

They targeted Goldsmiths in the Clarendon Centre, Oxford, hammering their way into the shopping centre and stealing thousands of pounds worth of watches. 

In December police said they hadn't made any arrests in connection with the burglary on New Year's Eve 2015 - 12 months on. 

Oxford Mail:

A sledgehammer was left at the scene in the Clarendon Centre after the raid on New Year's Eve 2015

The men were sentenced at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court on Friday for the offences. 

Jewellery, including watches, rings, necklaces and other items, were stolen from stores in a series of 11 raids between November 2015 and September last year.

A total of 11 masked men smashed their way into Goldsmiths in Oxford in the early hours of December 31, 2015.

Described as one of the most sophisticated break-ins to have taken place in the city, the gang fixed steel wires to prevent vehicle access at the  ends of Queen Street and shielded their faces from security cameras with umbrellas.

Oxford Mail:

At about 3.45am, seven men wearing high-visibility jackets and one man pulling a green wheelie bin congregated in Market Street, just off  Cornmarket Street, opposite the Clarendon Centre.

Four other men went in pairs to opposite ends of Queen Street, and fixed the steel wires across the road.

The group of seven then ran into Cornmarket Street and smashed into the centre.

Once inside, they forced the shutters on Goldsmiths and stole watches.

The seven men then left through the rear entrance of the centre in New Inn Hall Street and made off on foot down St Ebbe’s Street, leaving a sledgehammer behind.

Oxford Mail:

Police said Bogdan Costel Neagu, aged 24, of no fixed address, was sentenced to eight years and two months.

Ioan Bucuresteanu, 24, of no fixed address, received an eight-year sentence, while Vasile Daniel Cardos, 26, of Halesowen Street, Rowley Regis, West Midlands, was jailed for eight years and two months.

Silvu Ioan Acatrinei, 20, of no fixed address, and Andrei Florin Tifui, 28, of no fixed address, were both sentenced to eight years and two months.

Ioachim Karp, 19, of no fixed address, was jailed for six-and-a-half years for aggravated burglary and conspiracy.

CCTV of the raid 

Commenting on the case, Detective Chief Inspector Ricky Fields, of Staffordshire Police, said the group had set fire to cars and car tyres, as well as property as a distraction and also tied industrial cables across roads to block routes to emergency services in many of their burglaries.

The investigating team from Staffordshire Police linked up with officers from several other forces to investigate offences in Oxford, Milton Keynes, Lancashire, Hampshire, Kent, Derby, Peterborough and Warwickshire.

DCI Fields said the planning that had gone into the crimes was extremely detailed and carefully worked out.

He said: "We're dealing with a group of individuals who are extremely organised and forensically aware. 

"They went to great lengths and employed an interesting MO in an attempt to avoid detection.

"They employed a number of strategies including cycling to the scenes of their crimes and cordoning off sections of road to reduce traffic and observers.

"They also pitched tents, typically two to three miles from the scene of the crime, and buried their waste in a bid to avoid DNA being gathered."

The investigating team linked up with officers from several other forces after it was established that raids had also taken place at the following locations:

• 21 November 2015 - Fraser Hart, Milton Keynes

• 31 December 2015 - Goldsmiths, Oxford

• 9 February 2016 - Chris Shan Jewellers, Lancashire

• 10 March 2016 - Beaverbrooks, Stoke-on-Trent

• 7 April 2016 - Beaverbrooks, Basingstoke, Hampshire

• 20 June 2016 - Breitling store, Bluewater, Kent

• 26 July 2016 - Ernest Jones, Portsmouth

• 5 August 2016 - Montblanc, Bicester Village, Oxfordshire

• 23 August 2016 - Ernest Jones, Derby

• 25 August 2016 - Fraser Hart, Peterborough

• 7 September 2016 - Poel Jewellers, Stratford-upon-Avon

The senior officer added: "This was a highly organised Romanian crime group who, thanks to great partnership working between all forces, we were able to bring to justice.

"I hope the sentences handed out today send out a strong message. Staffordshire Police, along with other forces, will not tolerate such crime in our communities and we will take positive action against those involved."

A further man is due to be sentenced on March 28.