When Asdrit Kapaj was unmasked as the Wimbledon Prowler, residents breathed a sigh of relief. But now a new breed of professional thief is targeting the affluent suburb.
Marcus Wareing and his wife Jane are among the recent high-profile victims of “burglary tourism”, where criminals are flown into the UK to carry out crime sprees.
South American gangs, mainly from Chile, bring in low-level criminals to break into homes in London and the Home Counties.
The thieves are recruited in their home country and put on a flight to the UK, where they meet a contact who gives them a car and phones.
Homes in areas such as Wimbledon have been pre-selected as targets, with the burglars given instructions on how to beat security alarms, where to enter properties and which valuables to hunt for.
The criminals can be hard to catch as they arrive just days before the thefts, are not on police databases and leave the country soon after.
Danko Carvajal-Donaire, 20, Claudio Donoso, 20, Nicolas Portilla Astorga, 27, and Jorge Rojas, 22, broke into Michelin-starred restaurateur Wareing’s house in October last year. The thieves had marked his back fence with a small circle of orange paint to identify the property as a potential target.
Officers from Surrey police stopped their black Honda HR-V in Redhill and alerted the Met.
Investigators found that Carvajal-Donaire and Portilla-Astorga had photographed themselves wearing some of the stolen jewellery, while Rojas was wearing a distinctive necklace, also taken from Wareing’s home, at the time of his arrest.
The men were each sentenced to 40 months in jail at Kingston crown court on Tuesday.
The Met set up Operation Genie after a spate of burglaries in 2017, suspecting that South American gangs were behind the break-ins.