THIEVES who targeted properties in Winsford and Northwich as part of more than 150 burglaries across Cheshire are behind bars.

The three men were sentenced at Chester Crown Court as part of Operation Edendale, an investigation into a spate of burglaries that plagued residents between April 1 and December 31 last year.

A fourth member of the group is due to be sentenced at a later date.

Daryl Kennedy, 51, produced from HMP Forest Bank, was sentenced to 10 years, Antony Bell, 56, of Mitchells Quay, Failsworth, was sentenced to four years, and Ajaz Ahmed, 46, of Drake Street, Rochdale, was sentenced to three years in prison.

Supt. Paul Williams, who lead the investigation, said: "This is a great result for the victims of these burglaries, to know that the people responsible for violating their homes and their privacy and causing them distress are being held to account.

"It should also be reassuring for the people of Cheshire to know that that they are no longer free to commit these crimes and cause distress to anyone else.

“These people were responsible for a dramatic increase in the number of burglaries in homes across Cheshire and it was our priority to put a stop to their activities.

"The result today has come after months of hard work involving officers and staff from across the county and shows that Cheshire Police are determined to catch the people responsible for committing these crimes."

All three men pleaded guilty to committing the burglaries over a large area of the county, including Winsford, Northwich, Chester and various rural areas as well as areas in and around Greater Manchester.

The gang targeted properties which were unoccupied during the evening, searching homes selectively − they would ignore items such as iPods to target and jewellery boxes and steal cash.