POLICE are hunting a gang of thieves after a Jaguar sports car was found abandoned and burnt out.

The wrecked luxury vehicle was found in Hallgarth, near Pittington, County Durham.

An operation involving six police forces and led by Northumbria Police has begun.

It was launched after four men broke into a barn in the Espley area, near Morpeth, Northumberland, at about 1.40am on Tuesday.

They stole a green and silver Mitsubishi L200 pick-up truck, an Ifor Williams horse trailer and a quad bike.

The thieves are believed to have driven to Morpeth in the Jaguar.

They hitched the Mitsubishi, registration X694 JDC, to the horse trailer and loaded the quad bike into the trailer before escaping south towards the A1.

About an hour later, people in the pick-up are believed to have been involved in an assault in Quarrington Hill, near Durham.

An argument broke out in Steetley Terrace between them and a man who challenged them over comments they had made to a passing pedestrian.

The dispute led to an attack and substantial damage to the man’s car, which was parked in the street.

The pick-up was driven away and found burnt out near Quarrington Hill.

Superintendent Allan Brown, of Northumbria Police, said: “I would appeal for anyone who was in the Espley area, or anywhere in the vicinity and who may have seen four men, who we believe are aged in their late teens or early 20s, acting suspiciously to contact us with any information. The four men could have made their way to the area in a dark-coloured Jaguar car.”

Police are also seeking witnesses to the Quarrington Hill incident.

The investigation also involves police in County Durham, Cleveland and North Yorkshire.

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 03456-043-043 or Crimestoppers on 0800-555-111.