A prolific cigarette thief, who targeted forecourt shops across southern England, has been sentenced to four years imprisonment for a string of cigarette break-ins following an investigation by Surrey Police.

Jamie Channon, 37, from, Tilbury, Essex, also asked for nine other similar offences across seven counties to be taken into consideration and was ordered to forfeit £4,951 in cash which was seized at the time of his arrest.

The court heard that Channon was part of an organised crime group that targeted a number of convenience stores and petrol stations across several counties.

The gang would typically use crowbars to gain entry into each store and then make off with large quantities of cigarettes which they stowed away in duvet covers brought to the scene. The total value of their haul was estimated at around £60,000.

After a forensic hit from one of the attacked premises, officers from Surrey Police arrested and charged Channon with a number of offences on 29 June 2016.

He was charged with burglary at the Shell Garage, Church Lane, Oxted, in the early hours of 9 February 2016. Channon and other unknown individuals broke into the store and stole £2,780 worth of cigarettes from behind the counter. Officers investigating this crime established that Channon had committed this offence while on home leave from prison.

Channon was also charged with attempting to steal cigarettes from Waitrose in Tenterdon, Kent, on 8 March 2016; a burglary at the Esso Garage in South Ockendon, Essex, where £7,200 worth of cigarettes were stolen, and stealing cigarettes and alcohol worth £3,511 from the Esso Garage in Wymondham, Norfolk, on 31 May 2016.

Officers from Surrey Police who led the investigation, interviewed Channon in August of this year where he asked for nine other commercial burglaries to be taken into consideration from Surrey (2), Sussex (1), Essex (1), Dorset (2), Avon and Somerset (1), Norfolk (1) and Suffolk (1).

Temporary detective chief inspector Colin Pirie said: “Channon is a prolific offender who has brought no end of misery and inconvenience to those retail outlets who have been targeted. He seems to think he’s beyond the law and even had the arrogance to commit an offence while on home leave from prison.

“I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the relentless work undertaken by the investigation team led by DS Dave Warner and in particular the officer in the case PC Rachel Pickering and investigating officer Nicholas Hemmant to bring this individual to justice. I hope this sentence sends a message to others that we will pursue offenders beyond our borders and put them before the courts to ensure our communities are safe.”

He was sentenced at Guildford Crown Court on October 13.