TWO men who used high-tech tracking devices to target business owners for burglary and robbery have been jailed for a total of 18 years after the technology they used led detectives to them.

Officers from Leeds District Crime Team were able to build up a detailed picture of the pair’s involvement in an organised criminal enterprise that saw thousands of pounds in cash, jewellery and cars stolen in offences in Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and London between May and September last year.

Michael Crosdale, aged 28, of Manse Road, Burley-in-Wharfedale, and Robert Fairweather, aged 29, of Ranelagh Avenue, Bradford, used tracking technology on their victims’ vehicles along with their own surveillance to pinpoint their homes and identify their patterns of movements. The majority of those targeted were owners of Chinese restaurants and takeaways.

Their homes were then burgled while they were known to be out, with their addresses ransacked in the search for cash and jewellery. An estimated £150,000 worth of goods were stolen.

After a tracker was recovered from one victim’s vehicle, detectives worked alongside specialist digital media investigators at West Yorkshire Police’s Digital Intelligence and Investigations Unit to get a comprehensive overview of its use.

The device was shown at both offenders’ addresses and being deployed, regularly logged into, and recovered to be recharged as they targeted the victims.

On June 25 last year, an 80-year-old man working as a customs agent was attacked and robbed outside his home in London after collecting a delivery of gold from Heathrow Airport.

Detectives identified that the same tracker used in the burglary conspiracy had been used to track the robbery victim’s movements.

Electronic evidence showed devices linked to Crosdale and Fairweather checking the tracker, and a vehicle linked to them was shown travelling to London at the time of the robbery and returning with the tracker.

When officers arrested Crosdale at his home in Manse Road, Burley-in-Wharfedale, in September last year, they recovered a large amount of cash and several mobile devices, including an iPad hidden under a sofa. Its internet browser was connected to the tracking website used to access the tracker used in the offences.

Other evidence included a constant stream of internet searches for Chinese takeaways and restaurants across West Yorkshire during the time of the offences and documentation related to the purchase of tracking equipment. The on-board computer on his BMW M3 also linked him to locations where the tracker had been used.

Fairweather was arrested at his home in Ranelagh Avenue, Bradford, and evidence from recovered devices also linked him to the conspiracy and the robbery.

Both men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary, and were convicted of the robbery after a trial at Leeds Crown Court.

Both were sentenced to a total of 15 years each with consecutive three-year terms for drugs and proceeds of crime offences.

Detective Inspector Vicky Vessey, who heads Leeds District Crime Team, said: “This was a highly organised criminal conspiracy making use of tracking technology to target the victims.

“It was however that same technology, which they thought allowed them to keep their distance in the planning of these offences, that helped us to track them down.

“Lengthy and painstaking investigative work, supported by the expertise of our specialist digital media investigators, gave us a comprehensive package of evidence that linked these offenders to the crimes and has seen them brought to justice.

“We hope those they targeted can take some comfort from knowing they have now had to answers for their actions.”