A criminal gang caught by the Flying Squad during a ram raid on a petrol station have been convicted of a string of offences across the south of England.

They were arrested after an investigation was launched by the Metropolitan Police Flying Squad into to a series of night-time burglaries committed by an organised criminal group.

In many of the offences, the suspects used stolen high-end vehicles, mainly sports utility vehicles (SUV) such as Range Rovers and Land Rovers, to ram-raid commercial premises, often ripping out cash machines or stealing jewellery or cash boxes before driving off. Number plates were also stolen and placed on the vehicles to help the group avoid police detection.

Four men pleaded guilty to being involved in a combined total of 14 burglaries and 33 thefts as well as three attempted burglaries and an attempted theft.

The offences were committed from 14 November 2021 to 19 August 2022 in a range of different locations in north and west London, as well as Dorset, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire. The men used a variety of technical means to steal vehicles without keys and defeat vehicle tracking equipment.

Three of the four men were arrested by Met officers after a proactive operation caught them stealing cash boxes from an Esso petrol station and Tesco Express outlet in Buckingham Drive, Reading.

In the early hours of 19 August the group used a Range Rover, stolen in the Reading area, to ram into the shop and gain access. A stolen Alpha Romeo was also stopped at the scene.

The three men arrested were found to be in possession of stolen cashboxes and various tools and weapons. They were: William Connors, 29, of Exmouth Road, Hayes; Darren Eastaugh, 36, of Bedfont Close, Feltham; and Anthony Rodwell, 33, of Laurel Gardens, Ashford, Surrey.

A fourth man, Sebastian Gnyp, 37, of Allenby Road, Ealing, was arrested on 23 September 2022. Following his arrest, Gynp’s room was searched and a device that is used to block trackers in stolen cars was recovered.

The estimated value of the thefts was more than £1.2m, and the damage caused to vehicles and property estimated at £1.8m.

The loss of earnings to the business owners forced to shut for repairs totalled almost £1.5m.

At Isleworth Crown Court on 29 June, both Connors and Eastaugh were jailed for six years and six months. Rodwell was jailed for five years and ten months while Gynp was jailed for three years.

Detective constable Pippa Bregazzi, from the Met’s Flying Squad, said: “Footage of the burglaries demonstrates the ruthlessness in which the men used the cars as battering rams to access shops tills and cash machines.

“They had absolutely no thought for the victims of their crimes and it was clear they would have continued to target vehicle owners and shops across the south of England unless they were stopped.

“I am glad they have now been brought to justice and will spend a lengthy time in jail.”

Detective inspector Ari Yoganathan, senior investigating officer from the Flying Squad, said: “This was an outstanding investigation by a team of detectives determined to arrest and bring to justice a group of men who had caused misery to vehicle and business owners across London and the Home Counties.

“Thankfully no members of the public were injured during any of these offences, but millions of pounds worth of damage and lost earnings were caused by this crime spree.

“Our officers collaborated with colleagues from other police forces and were supported by our partners in the vehicle industry to disrupt this dangerous and disruptive organised crime group.”