‘Jiggler’ thief stole goods and vans worth £170,000
Crook jailed for 44 months after admitting 12 offences
A thief from Ashford targeted white vans – stealing £170,000 worth of goods – using a tool known as a ‘Jiggler’ key.
Police had become concerned over the number of vehicles, including a tipper, that had been swiped between April and August 2014.
Prosecutor Nina Ellin told Judge Heather Norton: “Sometimes a number of thefts were carried out in one night.
“The vehicles belonged to working men across Kent, and often contained valuable tools or other equipment.”
She said many of the thefts of white Ford vans were done using a ‘Tibbe’, a tool also known as a ‘Jiggler’ key.
Vehicles were targeted in Buckland Road, Westmorland Close, Northumberland Road, Hart Street and Postley Road in Maidstone; Huntingdon Road in Coxheath; Lunsford Lane in Larkfield; and Castle Road in Allington.
Canterbury Crown Court heard how police had been probing 24 thefts or attempted thefts of transit vans and tipper lorries during that period.
Ms Ellin revealed that in Maidstone, Medway and Ashford, 52 similar incidents had been recorded between March and November 2014.
James Steel, 31, now of The Beeches, Godmersham, but formerly of Riverdale Road, Ashford, admitted 12 offences of thefts and attempted thefts, and was jailed for a total of 44 months.
The cheeky thief shouted out to the judge: “How long is that in years?” before being led away to the cells.
His pal, Wayne Byrne, 33, from Dagenham, Essex, was jailed for 20 months after admitting five offences involving £42,000 worth of property.
Ms Ellin said police were able to put the men at the scene of the numerous thefts by tracking them through their mobile phone calls.
Steel and Lee Chapman, 25, of Selby Road, Parkwood, were also stopped in July 2014 in Ashford in a hired white van with 650 kilos of hand-rolled tobacco.
Both men were convicted of cheating the revenue out of £117,299 in tax, and Chapman also pleaded guilty to dealing in drugs – all done in defiance of a suspended sentence. He was jailed for a total of four and a half years.
Ms Ellin told how Chapman refused to comment about the tobacco smuggling but claimed an iPad found in a washing basket belonged to his son and £2,200 in cash were the proceeds of gambling and banger racing.
Steven Boden, 42, of Bolts Hill, Chartham, was given a 12-month community order after admitting theft of a lighting bar, and ordered to remain indoors for the next two months under curfew.
James Steel and a set of ‘Jiggler’ keys like the ones he used to break into vans in Ashford, Maidstone and Medway