Members of an organised crime gang who burgled stables acrossthe county have been jailed.
Frank Matthews, Jimmy Price and Lewis Collins were arrested after they conspired to steal horse equipment valued at around £100,000 at up to eight separate properties between 3rd May and 17th May 2020.
The gang targeted stables and other rural premises during the hours of darkness in areas including Sittingbourne, Faversham, Paddock Wood, East Peckham, Mereworth, Blue Bell Hill, Kemsing and Maidstone. Forcing open doors and disabling alarms, the men stole equine equipment before making off in vehicles, sometimes across open fields
After a break-in at stables near Bearsted, Maidstone on Sunday 17th May 2020, investigators identified the suspects had been using a Vauxhall Zafira.
On the following day a patrol saw the vehicle in Cranbourne Avenue, Maidstone and indicated for the driver to stop. The driver, Matthews, did not stop and drove dangerously through residential areas until the vehicle came to a halt in Woolley Road due to a mechanical issue. Officers, who had been pursuing the vehicle, arrested Matthews and his two passengers, Price and Collins.
Following a complex investigation, detectives were able to prove all three had been responsible for several break-ins. Matthews, of Crispin Court, Coxheath admitted eight burglaries; Collins of Clare Place, Maidstone admitted six and Price of Well Street, Loose admitted involvement in seven. They were charged with conspiracy to burgle and Matthews was also charged with dangerous driving.
All pleaded guilty at Maidstone Crown Court. On Friday (3rd February 2023), 27-year-old Matthews was jailed for two years and three months, 28-year-old Price was jailed for two years and four months and 25-year-old Collins received a sentence of one year and six months, suspended for two years.
Detective Constable Rob Fagg, of the Chief Constable’s Crime Squad, told SFM News: "These men targeted remote rural locations to steal a considerable amount of equine equipment from horse owners. The victims will have spent many years collecting expensive saddles, tack and in some cases specialist equipment, and the loss would have been hard to bear. The damage this gang caused at the break-ins would also have been expensive to repair and I have no doubt they did not spare a thought for the impact their crimes would have on the victims. A prison sentence for two members of this crime gang is entirely appropriate."