TWO men involved in a large-scale conspiracy to burgle homes across the North West, including Warrington, stealing high-performance cars worth around £2.6 million have today been jailed at Liverpool Crown Court.
Paul Wharton, 35, and Keith Russell, 42, have been jailed for a total of over 15 years as part of the biggest investigation carried out by Merseyside Police’s dedicated Operation Castle team into burglary and theft across Merseyside, Lancashire and Cheshire.
Last year eight people were sentenced to a total of over 32 years in prison following an 18-month investigation into an Organised Crime Group (OCG) responsible for a total of 162 burglary, theft and attempted burglary offences.
The investigation was launched in January 2020 after an increase in residential burglaries across Merseyside, Lancashire and Cheshire, including Warrington, in which high-performance vehicles with an estimated value of £2.6 million were stolen, and often recovered in the Blackburn area of Lancashire.
Last year 38-year-old Kashif Rafiq (also known as Anjum Nawaz) of Oozehead Lane, Blackburn, Lancashire, believed to be the head of the OCG was sentenced to eight years, nine months for conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles.
Today, Wharton of Max Road, Knotty Ash (above left) was jailed for seven years and three months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to commit theft.
Russell of Hornby Road, Liverpool, (above right) was jailed for a total of eight years after pleading guilty to robbery, conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to commit theft.
Detective Sergeant Darren Hankin of Operation Castle said: “The sentencing of Wharton and Russell today for their part in the burglary conspiracy brings the total for the OGC to over 47 years.
“This was a detailed and complex investigation which was supported by our colleagues at Cheshire and Lancashire Constabularies and demonstrates the commitment of Merseyside Police’s dedicated Operation Castle team to bringing these people to justice and putting them behind bars where they belong.
“We understand the massive impact that burglary has on victims. It can be really personal and victims can struggle to come to terms with offenders having entered their homes and stolen personal items.
“Key to these successes can often be information from those communities targeted, so I would continue to ask people to report anything suspicious, and come forward with any information you may have seen or heard.
“Many other burglaries are still preventable as offenders are often opportunistic. Lock your front and back door even when you are in, set your burglar alarm when you go out or go to bed and consider getting CCTV or doorbell technology, both of which can be valuable both as a deterrent measure but also when investigating incidents.”
Further information on crime prevention can be found https://www.merseyside.police.uk/cp/crime-prevention/protect-home-crime/keep-burglars-out-property/ or on our local Twitter and Facebook pages. You can follow the hashtags #OpCastle #BeatTheBurglar to see updates.
Always call 999 if a crime is in progress, and pass on any other info on suspected burglary via @MerPolCC on Twitter, ‘Merseyside Police Contact Centre’ on Facebook, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.