VICTIMS of a gang of organised car thieves have told how the crimes have devastated their lives.

Teesside Crown Court heard eight men targeted high value cars and ensured they were sold or stripped down quickly and professionally over a six-month period.

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Ringleader Trevor Keenan, 30, formerly of Keith Road, Grove Hill, Middlesbrough, was sentenced to nine years four months.

Ashley Brown, 23, of Askham Close, Middlesbrough, received eight years six months. His cousin Lee-Jay Brown, 20, of Holme House Prison, was sentenced to six years and nine months.

Donovan Hackleton, 21, of Ayresome Street, Middlesbrough, was given seven years for conspiracy to burgle with two years' consecutive for 16 other offences.

Brad Anderson, 20, of Brompton Street, Middlesbrough, was sentenced to eight years, six months.

Co-conspirator Luke O'Neill, 20, of West Lane, Whinney Banks, was sentenced to two years in a young offenders institution.

Garage owner Philip Johnson, 39, of Rutherglen Walk, Stockton, was sentenced to two years for three charges of handling stolen goods. While John Wilkes, 37, of Lulsgate, Thornaby, was given 12 month's custody, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

Passing sentence Judge John Walford branded Keenan as the ringleader who orchestrated the highly effective theft of vehicles from homes across Teesside.

He said: "The length of the police investigation shows the cunning and resourcefulness used to avoid detection."

Victim, Samantha Bullock, said: "It is nice to see the result today.

They need to understand how much their crimes affects people.

My partner worked nights and after the burglary I couldn't cope with him going to work and leaving me in the house at night.

"It changed our lives - I didn't want to leave the house and my partner had to stop working night shifts which has affected us financially."

Another victim, Hilary Lewis, a 52-year-old civil servant said: "I just kept thinking, they know us, but we don't know them.

They had obviously been watching us and we had no idea who they were.

Before the court hearing we were very cynical about the justice process, but the judge has obviously listened to evidence against them and given them the sentence they deserved."

The gang carried out 26 burglaries in a six-month period between September 2012 and April 2013.

Detective Inspector Cath Galloway, of Cleveland Police, said: "This was an extremely complex and unprecedented inquiry with the sheer volume of material relating to the incidents and suspects.

It was on a par with some of our major organised crime drugs investigations - only this time it was with cars.

"We quickly established that we were dealing with a highly organised crime group who were slick and focused. Once they had identified a desirable vehicle, they had a smash and grab approach - breaking into houses, taking keys and leaving in the car then immediately moving it on."