Car full of items stolen from British homes pulled over on Romanian motorway

A burglar has been jailed for several break-ins committed in south-west England after Romanian police stopped his car and found stolen silverware, jewellery and war medals.

Claudiu Popa, 23, was part of a professional gang of thieves who would smash the windows of British homes, make off with families’ valuables and then take them to mainland Europe. He was stopped for a traffic offence on February 3 when his haul was discovered.

The suspect fled the country after being released on bail, but police sent an intelligence report to officers in the UK, who were looking into a series of thefts. DNA evidence linked Popa to the offences, and investigators tracked him down to a hotel in Scotland where he had been working.

He was jailed for three years and 10 months at Taunton Crown Court on Friday, after admitting conspiracy to commit burglaries. The charges related to offences committed in Tickenham, Nailsea, Dyrham, Chilton Polden, Wedmore and Glastonbury between January 20 and 28 this year.

Avon and Somerset Police’s PC Mark Pollock said: ‘Popa was one of a professional gang of burglars who carried out a series of offences in our force area. They would smash windows at the homes they were targeting and steal silverware, jewellery, and in some cases war medals.

‘The crime group would courier the stolen property out of the country and into mainland Europe. We recovered DNA evidence at some of our burglary scenes and this evidence directly led to the arrest of Claudiu Popa in Scotland, where he was working at a hotel after fleeing Romania.

‘In interview, Popa admitted his involvement in multiple burglary offences and said items found in his car had been stolen from homes within our force area.

‘We’re now in the process of working with officers in Romania to obtain photographs of all the recovered items and reunite as many as we can with their rightful owners, but this is going to be a complex and painstaking process.’

PC Pollock said there are other suspects linked to the case. Two have been arrested for other offences in Switzerland and one is believed to be at large in Romania.

Thanking the National Crime Agency, Interpol, Police Scotland and the Metropolitan Police for their help in the investigation, he added: ‘Criminals don’t respect borders and in this case it’s needed a Europe-wide effort to bring this offender to justice.’