TWO career criminals and their gang of accomplices have been locked up after a £1million crime spree.

Brothers Ronald and Brian Thexton were part of an organised crime group which travelled from the North-East to steal vehicles, power tools and ATMs from homes and businesses in remote locations in Lancashire and Cumbria.

Using intelligence and their own links to the North-West, the gang targeted beauty spots, plant hire businesses and secluded village cash machines.

Some of the householders had been burgled before and were left so traumatised by the break-ins they have sold their homes.

But Judge Heather Lloyd, sentencing, said the Thexton brothers, from County Durham, were “habitual, career criminals” who were undeterred by their previous criminality.

When he was arrested Brian Thexton, 43, who was responsible for three ATM thefts, using a stolen JCB Telehandler and high powered plant machinery, joked with officers: “There will be plenty more holes in the wall before I retire.”

He also predicted: “I’ll be out in 12 months.”

Jailing him for nine-and-a-half years, Judge Lloyd told him: “The only time the property of members of the public is safe, is when you are in prison”.

Ronald Thexton, 36, was jailed for five years and 10 months.

Between April and August 28, the Thexton brothers were part of a conspiracy with Michael Campbell, 28, Jordan Fannon, 28, Andrew Maddox, 39, and Connor Palmer, 23.

The gang was responsible for 18 separate burglaries and cash machine thefts - although not every member was involved in each offence.

The Northern Echo:

The Spar in Beetham Rd, Milnthorpe, Cumbria - the location of one of the thefts

Judge Lloyd said: “It is certainly true that many, if not all of you, had some legitimate link to the North-West but you hid behind that connection for a long time to justify your proximity to the commission of these offences.

“You travelled from your home in the North-East to commit the planned offences as part of the conspiracy, then you travelled back home again.

“The individual offences are no spur of the moment offending. I am satisfied that each of these was well planned and it is significant that the premises were remotely situated.

“Some were targeted in order to steal equipment or vehicles that could be used in future offending you committed.

“Ther than the fact that two of you are brothers, I don’t know how you are connected to each other, but the spider's web of your connection to each other is no coincidence.”

Brian Thexton, 43, of Whitelund Road, Morecambe was jailed for nine years and six months; Ronald Thexton, 36, of Park Road, Bishop Auckland was jailed for five years and 10 months; Andrew Maddox, 39, of Lincoln Drive, Willington, Co Durham was jailed for five years; Connor Palmer, 23, of Burnhope Close, Crook was jailed for three years and seven months; Michael Campbell, 28, of no fixed address was jailed for two years and five months and Jordan Fannan, 28, of Oxcliffe Road, Heysham was jailed for two years and eight months.