SIX people have appeared in court charged with conspiring to burgle 43 houses, stealing jewellery and cash worth tens of thousands of pounds.

The alleged criminal gang are said to have raided 33 houses across Coxhoe, Bowburn, Durham City, Chester-le-Street and Seaham in the Durham Police force area and another ten across Washington, Houghton-le-Spring and Gateshead in Northumbria Police territory.

Police claim they targeted wealthy professional people, stealing mostly jewellery and cash.

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About £40,000 is alleged to have been taken in a single burglary and the total value of the reported haul is said to run into six figures.

The five men and one woman appeared at Newcastle Crown Court today (Friday, August 29), all facing a single charge of jointly conspiring to commit burglary.

No pleas were entered and, with the agreement of prosecuting barrister Anne Richardson, Judge Brian Forster QC adjourned the case until mid-November.

A trial is expected to take place at Newcastle Crown Court starting on Monday, March 9, next year and lasting up to three weeks.

The six accused are: Peter Hopper, 49, of Laurel Avenue, Sherburn Road Estate, Durham City; Steven William Hopper, 51, of Cooper Square, Gilesgate, Durham City; Christopher George Randall, 33, of Oak Avenue, Sherburn Road Estate, Durham City; and Andrew Smith, 40, Lisa Jane Smith, 36, and Paul James, all of Sidings Place, Fencehouses, Wearside.

All were granted bail except Mr James, who was remanded in custody.

The charges arise from Operation Orbit, a joint initiative of Durham and Northumbria police involving detectives from both forces’ criminal investigation departments (CIDs) and the North East Regional Special Operations Unit.

The case will return for a plea and case management hearing at Newcastle Crown Court on Thursday, November 13, where pleas could be entered.

To report a crime, call 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800-555-111.