Trio jailed following Tesco raids in Stratford and Nuneaton

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The Tesco Express store on the Banbury Road in Stratford following the raid

A team of burglars smashed their way into two Tesco stores 30 miles apart on the same night, escaping with more than £5,000 in cash from the tills.

But the trio were tracked by a police helicopter with a heat-seeking camera and captured after a Stratford resident had raised the alarm.

And at Warwick Crown Court ringleader Gheorghe Sterian, Coshin Gheorghe and Claudio Ostacioaie were all jailed after all three had pleaded guilty to two charges of burglary.

Sterian (30) of no fixed address, who prosecutor Jonathan Veasey-Pugh said had convictions in four European countries, was sentenced to two years and eight months.

Of the other two, who had no previous convictions, and who were also of no fixed address, Gheorghe (31) was jailed for two years and Ostacioaie (20) for a year and ten months.

Mr Veasey-Pugh said that at just before 2am on Saturday February 8 the three men targeted the Tesco Express store in Croft Road, Nuneaton, using a sledgehammer and a crowbar to force open the roller shutter.

The three, wearing face masks, ransacked the till area, smashing their way into tills from which they took £1,775 in cash.

The police were alerted after the store’s Smoke Cloak anti-burglary system was activated, filling the shop with dense smoke, at which the raiders fled.

Undeterred, they headed in a BMW car to Stratford where they attacked the Tesco Express store in Banbury Road at 3.30am, again forcing open the roller shutter.

They again smashed open the tills and removed the cash boxes from the store’s self-service tills, getting away with an estimated £4,171.

But an alert nearby resident, hearing the noise, made two calls to the police.

The three raiders made off in the silver BMW, unaware that some of the bundles of cash had GPS tracking devices in them.

They stopped after leaving the town and jettisoned the cash boxes and coins after forcing them open and taking the notes from them – but they still had the tracking device with them.

That enabled the police to track them to Haseley Knob near Warwick where they abandoned the car and ran off into the countryside, but were captured with the aid of a police helicopter which followed their movements.

Mr Veasey-Pugh said that Sterian had convictions in four European countries, including thefts in Romania, recycling stolen goods in Italy, and being part of an organised crime gang in Austria, but the other two had no previous convictions.

Clare Evans, defending, said Gheorghe was ‘extremely sorry he ended up in this position.’

She explained that he had come to the UK about two weeks earlier looking for work in the construction industry, with enough money to keep him going for a week – and after failing to get a job, he fell in with the burglary plan.

Ostacioaie, who she said was ‘ashamed of himself,’ had hoped to get work with Gheorghe once he had found employment, and ‘they stood or fell together.’

And of Sterian, Miss Evans added: “Although he has had a taste of the wrong side of the law, it would appear he has not served a prison sentence before.”

Jailing the three men, Judge Anthony Potter told them: “It seems that in each case you didn’t give the UK much of a chance to offer you employment opportunities.

“Within two or three weeks of arriving, you were to be found in the early hours of Saturday the 8th of February travelling the length of this county to commit serious criminal offences.

“The distance between the two leads me to the conclusion that this was a planned operation.

“You Mr Sterian have lengthy antecedents including in one case your involvement in an organised offence of dishonesty, which leads me to conclude you were the ringleader.”