A gang of burglars who targeted luxury cars across Leeds have been brought to justice after they bragged about their criminal exploits on social media.
Specialist officers from Leeds District Crime Team painstakingly built up a comprehensive picture of evidence, including material from social media, as they investigated a series of burglaries involving the theft of cars worth in excess of half a million pounds.
One of the group, 21-year-old Frankie Allwork, from Seacroft, posed in front of a stolen £60,000 Audi A6 while holding a pair of mole grip pliers, which are used to break into homes to steal car keys.
The image was sent to a notorious West Midlands-based social media account called Mr Dingers – ‘dingers’ being slang for stolen cars - where offenders anonymously show off about their crimes and revel in the number of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ they receive.
Allwork’s face was obscured with an emoji when the picture appeared online, but officers found the original unedited image of him with the identifiable stolen vehicle when they seized one of his accomplice’s phones.
A video had also been posted on the Mr Dingers account showing the suspects, driving along to music in the Audi, which had been stolen in a burglary in Red Hall Lane, Shadwell, on January 7 this year, again with them showing off a pair of mole grip pliers.
The original video, which received 33,000 views, was also recovered on one of the mobile phones seized by officers.
The Audi and a £30,000 Seat Leon FR, which had been stolen in a burglary the same night in Oulton Lane, Woodlesford, were also photographed by the gang parked side by side in Gipton – at a spot where tracking devices from other stolen cars had previously been found discarded.
Phone evidence showed Allwork had exchanged messages via social media with accomplice Bryn Kerry with them talking openly about stolen vehicles and the tools used to commit burglaries.
The wider investigation focused on the theft of vehicles worth more than £568,000, which included a spike in offences targeting homes in the Rothwell and Woodlesford areas between June and December last year.
James Holroyd, 20, of Halton Moor Road, Leeds, pleaded guilty to a burglary in Ashwood, Whinmoor, in January this year, where a £40,000 Land Rover Discovery and a £30,000 Ford Ranger were stolen from the driveway. He bragged to his associates over social media less than an hour later, describing other vehicles that he had left behind.
Bryn Kerry, 20, of Ingelwood Drive, Seacroft, pleaded guilty to the theft of a Seat Leon that was stolen from a New Year’s Eve house party in Coldwell Road, Crossgates, on January 1 this year. He texted Holroyd who met up with him and who later admitted handling stolen goods in relation to the offence.
Kerry was also convicted of an attempted burglary in Hazel Road, Whinmoor, where he was captured on a doorbell camera trying the door handle. He also admitted handling stolen goods over an iPhone found at his mother’s address after it was linked to a burglary in the east Leeds neighbourhood in December last year. A £40,000 BMW and £100,000 of jewellery and electrical items were taken in the break-in.
Joel Cheetham, aged 18, of Oak Tree Grove, Gipton, was convicted of a burglary in Ring Road, Crossgates, in December 2018, where a Ford Fiesta was stolen. Enquiries showed he had booked a taxi to take him and his associates to a fast food restaurant in Oakwood where a card stolen in the offence was used to buy food.
Cheetham also pleaded guilty to five counts of handling stolen goods in relation to cars stolen in burglaries in Woodlesford, Swarcliffe and Oulton after officers found pictures of the vehicles on his phone and incriminating posts on his social media. This included the Audi A6 that Allwork had posed in front of with mole grip pliers and the Seat Leon FR stolen the same night.
While on court bail for these offences in August, Cheetham was identified from images on social media riding a stolen motorcycle in Harehills after it was taken from a takeaway driver in Gipton. When he was arrested, officers found the distinctive red balaclava that he had worn. He pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods and driving offences.
Allwork, of Kentmere Avenue, Seacroft, was sent to a young offenders institution for four and a half years years after pleaded guilty to three offences of burglary and two of theft.
Holroyd was sentenced to 34 months. Kerry was sentenced to 32 months.
Cheetham's case was adjourned and he will be sentenced on December 23.