Gang of keyless car thieves jailed after targeting Heathrow airport car park

A gang who stole nearly £3million worth of high-end vehicles have been jailed after targeting the car park at Heathrow Airport.

Some 72 cars, including Range Rovers, BMWs and Mercedes, were stolen in London and the South East over a 10-month period between December 2019 and October 2020.

The gang targeted cars with keyless technology on residential streets, driveways and dealership forecourts, using a device to program a new digital key in seconds, allowing them to enter and leave.

James Howsen

James Howsen was the leader of the gang (Metropolitan Police/PA)

An investigation, launched after several thefts from a Heathrow airport car park, found the group was responsible for more than £2.8million in stolen vehicles.

One car was located on a shipping container bound for Ghana, while others were plated up and used to commit separate crimes or dismantled for parts in “chop shops”.

Four men were jailed for more than 20 years at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday after admitting their roles, the Metropolitan Police said.

Ringleader James Howsen, 32, from Brentwood, Essex, was jailed for six years and eight months and banned from driving for six years and four months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal, dangerous driving, burglary and aggravated vehicle seizure.

Dwaine Dixon

Dwaine Dixon has been jailed for more than five years (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Dwaine Dixon, 29, from Woodford Green, Essex, was jailed for five years and 11 months for conspiracy to steal and burglary.

Jack MacLeod, 29, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison and banned from driving for two years and eight months for conspiracy to steal, burglary, two counts of dangerous driving, ABH, and aggravated vehicle pick-up.

Brodi Higgins, 24, of no fixed address, was sentenced to four years and one month in prison and banned from driving for two years and ten months for conspiracy to steal, burglary, theft of vehicle and dangerous driving.

PC Barry Munnelly, of the Met’s Aviation Policing Command, who led the investigation, said: ‘This gang has been scouring London and the South East carrying out these brazen thefts – at all times of the day on residential streets, private driveways and car dealership forecourts. .

“On several occasions they drove recklessly, with no regard for the safety of the public or the police.”

Jack McLeod

Jack MacLeod (Metropolitan Police/AP)

Four other members of the gang were jailed earlier this year.

Jordan Murray, 25, from Romford, east London, was jailed for three years and eight months and banned from driving for three years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal and two counts of taking a vehicle aggravated.

Zakaria Ahmed, 28, from Woodford Green, was jailed for four years and three months and banned from driving for seven years and seven months after admitting conspiracy to steal and two counts of aggravated vehicle seizure.

Arif Ahmed, 28, from Woodford Green, was jailed for three years and three months and banned from driving for three years after he admitted conspiring to steal, taking an aggravated vehicle and driving dangerously.

Brodi Higgins

Brodi Higgins (Metropolitan Police/AP)

Abbas Moobe, 25, of Woodford Green, was jailed for three years and three months and banned from driving for two years and nine months after he admitted conspiring to steal and aggravating the seizure of a vehicle.

On October 23, 2020, Arif Ahmed, driving a stolen vehicle with Dixon and Moobe, out of a Heathrow Terminal 5 car park, deliberately collided with police cars and slammed into an exit barrier to escape.

Chief Superintendent Ian Howells, Commanding Officer of the Aviation Police Operations Command Unit, said: ‘This is an excellent example of an extremely thorough and diligent investigation which resulted in the closure of a dangerous criminal network.

“In addition to the large-scale vehicle thefts and the distress caused to the victims, the manner in which they committed their crimes presented a real danger to the public and I am pleased that they are now brought to justice.

“The Met is committed to achieving justice for victims, protecting the public and fighting organized crime gangs.”

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