Published: 17:52, 26 September 2017
The detective who led a Kent Police investigation into two career criminals responsible for a series of burglaries across East Kent has paid tribute to the officers across the country who worked on the case.
Lee Heane and Matthew Bryan were sentenced to seven years and six years jail respectively at Ipswich Crown Court.
The pair, both from Leicester, had admitted committing a series of over 50 burglaries across seven counties, including Kent.
An investigation led by Suffolk Police saw forces across the country join forces to track down the offenders.
Alarm bells started ringing in Kent after a number of burglaries were reported, mainly in the Thanet area, in the autumn of 2016.
Detective Constable Sarah Phillips from Kent Police said: “We immediately identified a pattern of offending based around the modus operandi which was quite distinctive.
“The offenders targeted detached properties – often bungalows – while the occupants were either out or away.
"They forced the locks of rear UPVC doors in a particular way. They ignored electrical items, instead taking high-value jewellery, cash and, on a number of occasions, safes.”
A breakthrough came when one of the offenders left a screwdriver at a property he had burgled in Old Hall Drive, Cliffsend, on November 14 last year.
Around £10,000 worth of jewellery had been stolen from the house, including many items of great sentimental value to the owner.
DC Phillips said: “DNA on the screwdriver matched that of Matthew Bryan, a prolific Leicester criminal, and we began liaising with Leicestershire Police.
“One of their officers recognised Bryan from CCTV footage of a burglary in King Edward Road, Birchington, in November last year.”
Heane, a known associate of Bryan, was identified after his Nike trainers were forensically linked to three burglaries in Thanet.
When three shotguns and cartridges were stolen from a property in Hadleigh, Suffolk, Suffolk Police took the lead for the investigation.
The shotguns were recovered when Kent Police officers found a crashed and abandoned Jaguar in Hastingleigh on December 16.
The car belonged to Bryan and contained his fingerprints and also DNA matching Heane.
Evidence gathered by detectives across the various police forces linked a number of these burglaries, with Heane and Bryan now identified as suspects.
Both men had been circulated as wanted prior to their arrests in February this year, with Heane being detained in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Bryan in Leicester.
Heane pleaded guilty to 42 burglaries and Bryan to 15 burglaries, encompassing 27 offences in Staffordshire and a further 20 crimes across Kent, Suffolk, Norfolk, Hampshire and Sussex.
Heane also had another 10 offences taken into consideration in Cheshire and one in Suffolk and admitted being in possession of a firearm when prohibited for five years.
Bryan had an additional seven burglaries taken into consideration.
"Burglary is a vile and intrusive offence and I hope the fact Heane and Bryan are behind bars for a long time will provide some closure for their victims" - Det Con Sarah Phillips
Detective Constable Mark Hughes of Suffolk Police said: “Lee Heane and Matthew Bryan are prolific criminals who travelled around the country causing untold misery for their numerous victims.
“Although we took the lead for this inquiry in Suffolk, I am grateful for the support given to us by colleagues across the other counties concerned to help bring these men to justice."
Detective Constable Phillips said: “Lee Heane and Matthew Bryan were career criminals and it soon became very apparent that this was a national issue, not just a Kent one.
“Kent Police worked closely with Suffolk Police and the other forces involved to ensure that these two men were brought to justice.
“Their actions had a massive impact on their victims.
"Burglary is a vile and intrusive offence and I hope the fact that Heane and Bryan are behind bars for a long time will provide some closure for their victims.
“This investigation shows that no matter how far flung the crimes, police forces will always work together to make sure the net closes in on offenders."