A MAN from St Ives has been jailed after admitting being part of a gang who made thousands from stealing cars in a six-month crime spree across East Anglia.

A MAN from St Ives has been jailed after admitting being part of a gang who made thousands stealing from cars in a six-month crime spree across East Anglia.

David Littlechild, of Sandwich Close, St Ives, brothers Danny and Samuel Alder, of Ramsden Square, Cambridge and Stuart Driver, of Ditton Fields, Cambridge, targeted vehicles parked at rural beauty spots and in school car parks.

They moved around the region to avoid detection, netting thousands of pounds by withdrawing cash from stolen cards, stealing handbags and other valuables, and buying high-value goods from stores in Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Newmarket.

Detectives linked the men through CCTV footage, and put them under intense surveillance. They were caught in Essex after being seen breaking into two vehicles in Suffolk.

After the men were caught, theft from vehicles in south Cambridgeshire dropped 100 per cent, said police.

All four pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal between June 17 and November 26 at Cambridge Crown Court. A fifth defendant, Ian Blane, of Brackley Close, Cambridge, admitted fraudulently hiring a car which helped the others avoid detection.

Danny Alder, 29, and Driver, 37, were both jailed for 20 months, Littlechild, 45, was locked up for 12 months and Samuel Alder, 20, was given 15 months.

Blane, 49, was given six months, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid work.

Littlechild and Samuel Alder were also ordered to serve an additional three months for a separate assault.

Detective Sergeant Nick Skipworth said: "This was an organised criminal gang which made thousands of pounds by making others' lives a misery. There were more than 40 victims across four counties. One victim lost about £7,000.

"They would target rural beauty spots, school and club car parks. Often the victim had the added trauma of having to drive home with a smashed window and broken glass all over their vehicle.

"The gang would move around targeting different areas to avoid being caught, but we managed to catch them red-handed after an intense three-week operation. Once these men had been locked up, theft from vehicles in south Cambridgeshire dropped 100 per cent.

"This case should send out a strong message to anyone committing serious, acquisitive crime that we will pull out all the stops to catch and convict you."