DISGUISED in motorcycle helmets and hooded tops, they thought they were getting away with it.

For a four-month period a Hampshire-based masked gang targeted stores big and small, using sledgehammers or crowbars to break in.

Refuse sacks were then used to carry away thousands of pounds worth of alcohol, cigarettes and electronic goods.

In one supermarket in Southampton, staff were stacking their shelves on a night shift when the robbers burst in before brazenly clearing the shelves of cigarettes.

But today the three main members are behind bars after Hampshire police used cutting-edge technology to track them down.

Investigating detectives trawled through CCTV and road cameras as well as pin- pointing movements by tracking suspects’ mobile phone calls, footprints and DNA.

Southampton Crown Court heard how Jason King was the ringleader of the gang which operated from February to May of last year.

In one raid during the early hours of February 1, they targeted Boots in Winchester Road, Chandler’s Ford.

CCTV shows them sledgehammering their way in before making off with more than £1,200 of electrical goods as anti-burglar devices activated a smoke screen.

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A hair wand from the store was later found in a flat in Millbrook Towers, in Southampton, owned by Nicola Carter, whom the court heard offered her home as a safe house.

In another raid on the evening of May 2, neighbours of the Premier Stores in Portswood Road were alerted by a loud noise as the gang, who arrived by motorcycle, struck again.

Their first attempt failed but they returned hours later, with one of them revving their engine to mask the sound of King crow-barring his way in.

The raider then fled on the back of a motorbike with more than £4,000 worth of cigarettes and £2,000 in cash.

King was identified from a CCTV still and fellow gang member Paul James’ mobile phone was located at the shop and home at the relevant times.

CCTV footage in Millbrook Towers also caught them carrying loot to Carter’s flat.

Analysis of Carter’s door buzzer showed it sounded around the same time as the gang were filmed entering the block.

In the early hours of May 8 the gang struck at Sainsbury’s Supermarket in Shirley Road, smashing their way into the closed store to steal £3,500 worth of cigarettes at 4.30am while staff were stocking shelves.

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CCTV identified King as one of three raiders – all of whom fled on motorbikes.

King and James were back burgling a Co-op in Bishop’s Waltham on May 25 where they bagged £2,600 worth of booze and cigarettes.

This time Daniel Marczylo accompanied them with Hayley Bray driving her car. Police tracked Marczylo’s mobile phone to the store and Millbrook Towers where Bray’s car was filmed on CCTV. King removed the goods later that afternoon.

In the early hours of May 29 Marczylo was found to have botched a burglary at the One Stop Store in Hythe after footprints on a shop counter matched his trainer.

King was also found to have broken into BKG Transport in Whiteparish, along with 18-year-old Kaine Morgan on the last bank holiday of May. Four laptops were stolen.

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THE three main gang members received at total of eight-and-a-half years between them.

But the rest were given suspended prison sentences.

Sentencing the gang, Recorder Nigel Lickely said: “All of you played a role as either burglars or receivers of items stolen. The offences resulted in damage and financial loss in many instances items stolen were no doubt selected to be sold because of their marketable qualities.

“You travelled, those who burgled, some considerable distance. It’s likely you all made some financial gain or benefited in some way and I suspect some made significant financial gains.

“You have all shown in your criminality a total lack of regard for the shopowners and staff who have had to suffer the losses and clear up.”

The ring leader Jason King, 25, of no fixed address, who admitted five counts of burglary was jailed for 40 months.

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Jason King

In mitigation the court heard how King enjoyed “the buzz” he gained from his crime spree Paul James, 23, of Tindale Road, Maybush, was found guilty of two burglaries and received three years.

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Paul James

Defence barrister Peter Asteris said his client, a dad of two young daughters, was “utterly ashamed” and now wanted to get his life together for his family.

Daniel Marczylo, 27, of Forrest Edge, Fawley, admitted two counts of burglary and was jailed for 27 months. Matthew Jewell, defending, said his client had been leading a chaotic lifestyle at the time.

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Daniel Marczylo

But other burglars escaped jail sentences. Hayley Bray, 31, of Forrest Edge, Fawely, who admitted burglary, was given a 16-month sentence that was suspended for two years.

Barrister Keely Harvey said her client had a subordinate role and was struggling with drinking after starting her habit aged 11.

And Kaine Morgan, 18, from Millbrook, found guilty of burglary at a trial, had a 15-month sentence suspended for two years to give him “a chance” to reform.

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Kaine Morgan

Charles Cochand, defending, said Morgan was now hoping to start at career in engineering.

Nicola Carter, 25, of Millbrook Towers, was found guilty of handling stolen items and providing a refuge for burglars and stolen goods and given a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years.

Charles Gabb, defending, said Carter was a single mum who did not dip in and out of crime and had no planned arrangements to use her house as a safe house.

Adam Jones, 23, of Foxgloves, in Hedge End, was found guilty of handling stolen goods and received an 18-month suspended sentence and was ordered to pay £750 compensation.

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Adam Jones

His lawyer said he had only sold the laptops to make money for his family.

A registration plate of a green Citroen Saxo which was linked to King was tracked on road cameras to the site.

Morgan’s mobile phone was also tracked there during the break-in and Millbrook Towers – where Morgan was caught on the block’s CCTV.

Another man linked to the gang, Adam Jones, was found to have handled three of the laptops and a distinctive laptop bag after a worker from BKG Transport saw him selling them on eBay.

On June 24, at 2.40am, the Co-op, in Spring Road in Eastleigh, was targeted and £857 worth of cigarettes stolen.

King was linked to this after his DNA was found on a discarded hammer he used to smash his way in.